Hurricanes Become Alligator Wrestlers
WHAT I SAW AT McKETHAN STADIUM
Game two of the Miami-Florida series held much less intrigue than Friday night’s classic. We can thank the Miami Hurricanes for that one, doling out some potent bats and a squelching performance by the mound staff and the fielders behind them.
Miami – 012 310 000 – 7 7 1
Florida – 000 101 000 – 2 6 1
WP: Thomas Woodrey, 2-0
LP: A.J. Puk, 1-1
– Zack Collins, 2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI
– David Thompson, 1-for-4, double, RBI
– Dalton Guthrie, 2-for-4, double
– J.J. Schwarz, 1-for-4, HR, RBI
– Miami, 5-2
– Florida, 5-1
IN A NUTSHELL:
After Friday’s white-knuckler in the Nordic conditions came to a memorable last at-bat ending, this one was the complete opposite of that one. It was the proverbial boat race, played in much warmer conditions, and it crawled to a slow, methodical ending without any element of surprise.
And that was fine with the Miami Hurricanes.
After Friday’s crushing loss to their arch-rivals, they could’ve gone into a shell and made this a lost weekend. But they responded after taking Friday’s gut punch. Then again, when you have talents like Zack Collins and Thomas Woodrey playing to their potential, you understand they weren’t going to stand for a letdown.
“I was hoping they’d come out ready to play tonight,” coach Jim Morris said. “You gotta relax and play because this is a tough place for us to play and it’s a big rivalry. So you’ve gotta come to the field ready for a team like this.”
The Hurricanes looked the part too, not wasting any time to strike early, getting one run in the second, two runs in the third and three runs in the fourth. That three-run frame can be attributed directly to the power-thump of Mr. Collins, who smoothly stroked an Aaron Rhodes offering deep into the dark Gainesville night, making the score 6-0, essentially slamming the door on the Gators for the night early on.
“Zack really had a big day,” Morris said. “It was good to see him break out with that big home run.”
Who else was part of slamming that door? Look to the mound work of Canes starter Thomas Woodrey, who went 6.2 innings, giving up five hits, one earned run and a handful of really good defensive plays behind him. Oh sure, those official numbers aren’t a total shutdown, but it just felt like he was more dominant than that, putting the cuffs on a dangerous Gator batting order by spacing out the hits enough to stop any hopes for a big inning.
“I’m not really a strikeout pitcher,” said Woodrey. “So I thought the early run support was huge. The early lead allowed me to relax and let my defense make plays behind me.”
The only inning it looked like Florida gave The U a small sense of panic time was the fourth. After Miami raced out to that 6-0 lead, the Gators loaded the bases with one out. But Woodrey was able to get a pair of flyouts to the outfield, which resulted in just one run. The Gators never got closer than five runs again the rest of the night.
“With the defense making plays behind you it just changes everything in how you throw,” said Woodrey. “I was able to just go out and pound the strike zone after that.”
The Gators were outhit for the second straight night but just couldn’t get the two or three hits in a row to make much of a dent on the scoreboard.
“I thought we actually swung the bats good,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I know it doesn’t show up on the scoreboard but I thought we hit some balls hard and I thought we had a good approach tonight.”
– Seven Walks.
The Gator pitching staff has been very proficient on the mound so far this season, coming into the game having issued just seven walks in five games. But Saturday the four Florida pitchers combined to issue seven walks to the Hurricane batters.
In the postgame, O’Sullivan lamented the walks, particularly the one to Ricky Eusebio in the fourth inning. Considering the crushing blow that followed, that was obvious.
“That walk was a really big deal,” he said. “Because then we messed up the location on that pitch to Collins right after that. Our guys know how talented he is and you can’t leave anything over the plate with him.”
GAME BALL GOES TO:
– Zack Collins, Miami catcher.
The Hurricanes’ three-hole hitter came in hitting just .250 with six RBIs. Saturday, he busted out, getting a pair of hits including his first home run of the season. That three-run bomb put a certain slump into the shoulders of the Gators and made this one a no-brainer.
– Saturday’s attendance of 6,081 was the second-biggest crowd in school history for McKethan Stadium. Yes, that’s not a misprint, even bigger than any of the crowds for a regional or a super regional. The No. 1 record crowd of 6,108 came in 2012 when LSU was in town. The key to that attendance boom was that the game immediately followed the football team’s spring game. That record could be in jeopardy, though, since this year’s spring game is followed immediately by the Gators taking on South Carolina at McKethan Stadium.
FIVE THINGS FROM THE DAY IN COLLEGE BASEBALL:
A couple of things that struck me from the day.
1- The best team in the state of Florida is… UCF?
Enough of all this Miami-Florida lovefest, how about those Knights? For the second day in a row they took down a quality opponent from one of the “Big Five” conferences, edging Maryland 7-6. Coupled with Friday’s 9-5 pasting of Arkansas, UCF is now 6-0 on the early season with a game vs. homestanding South Alabama on Sunday.
2- Four teams to jump off the bandwagon
Apparently this jumping off the Vanderbilt bandwagon is REAL now. Friday it was a jog-off 3-2 win over unheralded Indiana State in the ninth inning. Saturday it was an out-and-out rout. And yes, that’s a rout for ISU, not the preseason No. 1 Commodores. The Sycamores humbled the top-ranked ‘Dores by an 8-1 count … really? Gah!
Split with Arkansas State on Saturday to lose the series two games to one. The Cards, who are now just 3-3, were originally supposed to play Milwaukee this weekend before weather cancelled that series.
– UC Irvine.
That trip to Omaha gets farther and farther in the rear-view mirror. Saturday’s 10-3 and 4-1 losses to Cal comes on the heels of Friday’s 6-1 loss. The Anteaters are now 0-6.
– Florida State.
Doubleheader losses at Georgia means FSU has lost three of its last four games, all on the road. Hmmm. Is this why they schedule so many home games usually?
3- Four teams to jump on the bandwagon
The two wins vs. Florida State on Saturday could just be the tonic to get Scott Stricklin’s program that boost back to the next level of the sport.
– UC Santa Barbara.
That’s two straight blowout wins over visiting Kentucky for Andrew Checketts’ crew. Saturday’s 11-0 swatting of the Cats jumped off the score page for me.
Not that people shouldn’t be on the Coogs’ bandwagon already, but Saturday affirmed it with their second win over Alabama. UofH scored nine runs in its final two at-bats to account for the 14-9 final.
– Dallas Baptist.
Saturday’s 9-4 win at San Diego improved the Patriots to a perfect 6-0. They’ve outscored their opponents 50-15 in the process.
4- We were wrong about the pitching showdown between UCLA and North Carolina.
Through two games down in Orlando, these two traditional pitching powers have combined for 46 hits and 28 runs. Saturday’s game saw the Heels post a 9-6 win as both teams posted 12 hits, setting up a winner-take-all series finale Sunday. But things have also been on the ugly side as the two teams have also committed 17 errors in two games. Ugh!
5- More anecdotal proof that the home run is back in college baseball.
In the two games I saw Saturday, I caught three yard calls, one by Jacksonville’s Angelo Amendolare, which was a grand slam, and one each by Miami and Florida as hulking power hitter Zack Collins parked a three-run dinger and Florida frosh J.J. Schwarz hit his third of the season.