Gator Baseball christens new stadium with win over Hurricanes in season opener
Florida has won 18 of the last 22 meetings against Miami
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The official debut of Florida’s new ballpark, and the Gators season opener against the No. 21 Miami Hurricanes, had to wait an extra two hours and 10 minutes but the No. 1 ranked team in the nation didn’t let a little rain spoil their victory parade.
Opening the season at home in the immaculate Florida Ballpark at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium brought a number of die-hard Gator Baseball fans out, despite the day-long downpour that pushed the start time from 3 p.m. to 5:40 p.m.
Ace pitcher Tommy Mace made the start for the orange and blue. He had a solid outing in his season debut. Mace allowed just one earned run on three hits, while striking 8, and only gave up two walks.
The lone run he allowed to come across the board was in the second inning. After Florida (1-0) catcher Nathan Hickey hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first, Mace found himself in a jam with runners on first and second and only one out. Miami’s (0-1) Christian Del Castillo hit a hard shot through the right side, and despite a laser-like throw from right fielder Kendrick Calilao, Yohandy Morales was able to slide under the tag to score from second to even the game 1-1.
It took until the fifth inning for either side to break the tie. And it was Florida who would break it wide open.
With runners on first and second, Jacob Young smacked a single into right field that easily brought second baseman Josh Rivera in from second to help the Gators regain the lead, 2-1.
Later in the inning, with the bases loaded, Hickey delivered again. He smoked a ball down the right field line that ended up being called a ground-rule double. That plated Calilao and Young to increase the orange and blue’s lead to 4-1.
Calilao singled in the sixth to bring home Rivera, who scored for the second and final time of the night, which made it 5-1. But the final runs for Florida came courtesy of Kris Armstrong in the eighth.
Designated hitter Jordan Butler singled to left to begin the inning, but was removed for pinch runner Jordan Carrion. With the lead runner aboard, Armstrong loaded up and took a mighty cut at the first pitch he saw from Hurricanes reliever Jacob Garland. When the ball connected with the barrel it was a no-doubter.
The ball soared high into the night sky. The towering shot cleared the bleachers in right field as the home crowd and dugout went wild. The two-run homer made it 7-1 Florida.
In the ninth, Miami did manage to scratch out 4 runs to make the final score look much closer than the game actually was.
The Gators host the Hurricanes Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. to close out the three game series.
Florida Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan is now 35-13 against Miami all-time and has won 18 of the last 22 games.
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