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UM-Gators time. David Thompson: "We don't like them very much & they don't like us very much.''

Game Day!

Better yet: Game Day against the Gators.

The No. 16 Hurricanes (2-2) will attempt to break out of its hitting slump at 7 tonight at Alex Rodriguez Park against the in-state nemesis the Canes (and especially, it seems, Canes fans) love to hate.

The feeling no doubt is mutual.

But the No. 23 Gators (4-1) have had the upper hand the past few years. Florida has defeated Miami 13 out of the last 14 games. UF had won 11 straight until Miami broke the streak last season. But UM still ended up losing two of its three-game series at UF in 2013.

Both teams were eliminated in the NCAA regionals.

"It's huge,'' UM third baseman David Thompson said of the weekend series. "We don't like them very much and they don't like us very much. We really want to win this series.''

To do that, the Canes need to start connecting. They have a dreadful .228 team batting average, with, among regular starters, Dale Carey leading the way with .400, Tyler Palmer (former Gator) at .357 with a team-high .643 slugging percentage and David Thompson at .286. From there it's bad.

Coach Jim Morris and his players believe the youngest Canes have been putting too much pressure on themselves and pushing too much to excel at the plate.

"I was nervous at the start of the season and I know how the freshmen feel,'' Thompson said. "Last year I was super nervous. We've just got to calm down and relax. We've played this game our whole lives and let's not try to do too much.''

Even Carey, a senior, said he tried too hard in the bottom of the ninth in Wednesday's loss to FAU. Carey whiffed on three pitches with runners on second and third.

"I got a little anxious,'' he said. "I didn't stick with my approach that I had throughout the game. I wanted to be a hero and make things happen for my team and I think that just got to my head. I started chasing pitches that I know I shouldn't swing at. Just learn from it.

"I feel like we're putting too much pressure on ourselves, especially the young guys. This is their first time playing on a big stage like this. I know a lot of guys are not going with their approaches. They're trying to do too much or trying to get too big, swinging too hard. Go up there and know what you can do. Trust yourself, trust your instincts, trust your abilities and go have fun.''

 I talked to freshman Zack Collins yesterday before practice. Zack had been UM's best hitter during practice, but he's 0 for 15 with two walks and five strikeouts. He has connected pretty hard on several pitches. He told me he wasn't pushing too much.

"I don't know how to explain it,'' Collins said. "I just haven't gotten a hit yet. I'm not really too worried because I know that after the first one I'll come through.''

Collins has a lot on his mind, given that he is a natural catcher and is being groomed for now to play first base, a position he is still learning.

"It has been a little challenging,'' Collins said. "I have to work a little over there. I'll get it though.''

Lefty Chris Diaz will pitch for Miami tonight.

"This is going to test us,'' Diaz said. "We know we have to play well or we're not going to win, plain and simple.'' 

Hope the fans show up tonight. It's another beautiful day, and Mark Light really does light up when the place is packed.

 

IF YOU GO

 WHAT: UM baseball

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: AlexRodriguezPark at Mark Light Field, corner of San Amaro Drive and Ponce de Leon in Coral Gables.

BROADCAST: ESPN3; WQAM 560 and WVUM 90.5 FM.

ADMISSION: $10 (general)-$18 (reserved chairback); $8 children 2-17 and adults 55-older.

PROJECTED STARTERS: Friday – UM LHP Chris Diaz (1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. LHP Bobby Poyner (1-0, 0.00); Saturday – UM LHP Bryan Radziewski (0-1, 0.0) vs. RHP Brett Morales (0-1, 13.50); Sunday – LHP Andrew Suarez (1-0, 1.80) vs. RHP Karsten Whitson (0-0, 13.50).

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

 

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