Florida and Miami ready to renew series

Gators have flipped script on rival 'Canes, winning last 8 games in series

Florida's Nolan Fontana tags out Miami's Scott Lawson as he tried to steal second base to end the 9th inning and force extras during the Gators' 4-3 win over Miami in game two of the 2010 super regionals in Gainesville. With the win, the Gators advanced to the College World Series.

Brad McClenny/ Staff photographer/ FILE
Published: Friday, March 2, 2012 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 11:56 p.m.

There are different ways you can look at it. Miami has not been Miami, Florida has taken its program to an elite level. It's cyclical. The Hurricanes have had some bad breaks.



Who: No. 1 Florida (7-1) at No. 12 Miami (8-0)
When: 7 tonight
Where: Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field
Radio: AM-850
Pitching matchup: UF junior right-hander Hudson Randall (1-0, 3.00) will oppose UM senior left-hander Eric Erickson (2-0, 0.00).
Up next: 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday (Fox Sports Florida)

No matter how you spin it, the streak may be hard to believe for so many former Florida baseball players who had their hopes and dreams die at the hands of Miami.

Florida has won eight straight against the Hurricanes and 11 of the last 12. In each of the last three seasons, UF has ended Miami's season in the postseason.

But of those eight straights win for the Gators, all but one of them were in Gainesville. Coral Gables is a different animal.

“The crowd's tough there,” said senior Preston Tucker. “It's going to be new for the young players. Hopefully we don't take too long to adjust.”

Florida and Miami will renew their series tonight at Mark Light Stadium where Florida is 40 games under .500 all-time against the Hurricanes.

“It's a hostile environment if you're not wearing a Hurricanes jersey,” said tonight's UF starter Hudson Randall.

The history of Florida baseball is littered with disappointing — sometimes heartbreaking — losses to Miami ranging from Rodney Brewer's dropped fly ball with a trip to Omaha on the line in 1985 to Jim Burt's walk-off double in Gainesville in 2003.

But under coach Kevin O'Sullivan, Florida has been able to show what that disappointment tastes like.

“I'm not really that aware of (what happened before),” said Randall. “I've heard Sully and the other guys talk about it all the time when they had all those first-round draft picks. Now the tables are kind of reversed.”

Both teams are off to fast starts. The top-ranked Gators are 7-1 while No. 12 Miami is 8-0, albeit against lesser competition than the Gators have faced.

“It's not going to be easy,” O'Sullivan said. “It's Miami. But it gives us a kind of barometer of where we are right now. The timing is good for us because we have yet to play our best baseball.”

The Hurricanes are led on the mound by sixth-year senior Eric Erickson, who has yet to give up a run in his two starts. At the plate, Bethune-Cookman transfer Pete O'Brien is hitting .500 with three homers and 10 RBI.

Florida did not have a mid-week game and catcher Mike Zunino and second baseman Casey Turgeon used that time to heal minor injuries and are ready to go. But sophomore pitcher Karsten Whitson, pulled after 13 pitches Sunday, is still a question mark.

“It's up in the air,” O'Sullivan said. “There is no structural damage. But he will not go on the mound until he feels 110 percent. I anticipate that will be sooner than later.”

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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