No. 23 Gators salvage series with win over No. 16 'Canes
Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 5:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 5:06 p.m.
CORAL GABLES — The Florida baseball team went into the weekend winners of 13 of its last 14 against Miami, but the Gators found themselves in danger of getting swept by the Hurricanes for the first time since 2009.
After dropping the first two against No. 16 Miami, the 23rd-ranked Gators salvaged a 6-4 win in the series finale Sunday by scoring four runs in the first inning and using seven pitchers to hold on.
Starter Karsten Whitson, recovering from missing all of 2013 with shoulder surgery on his throwing arm, went the first three innings, giving up two earned runs on three hits and 54 pitches.
The bullpen took it from there. Three of the six relievers faced just one batter, including Eric Hanhold, who earned his first career save by getting Dale Carey to fly out to center as the potential winning run with former Gator Tyler Palmer on deck.
“We told the players before the game the mark of a gritty team is get out with a win, no matter how we have to do it,” Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “Our strength is our depth and we're going to go with the percentages.”
Earning a win against a rival on the road after falling behind 2-0 in the series and facing a tough left-hander in UM starter Andrew Suarez is something the team can build off of.
“We're young. We're not nearly a finished product yet, but I do like the fight we showed today,” O'Sullivan said. “This is a game that hopefully we look back on down the road and say that's what got us going.”
The Gators (5-3) had things going their way from the start. They hit around the order with six hits in the four-run first.
Richie Martin led the game off with a double down the right-field line. Taylor Gushue drove him in with a single. Then freshman first baseman Peter Alonso tripled and catcher Braden Mattson doubled — each driving in a run. Mattson was later driven in by a Ryan Larson single.
After giving up three runs in two innings in his first Sunday start, a no-decision against Maryland last week, Whitson is slowly feeling himself return to form.
“I think every time I'm able to get out on the mound I feel a little more comfortable,” he said. “I felt better than I did last week.”
Freshman A.J. Puk recorded his first career win, relieving Whitson in the fourth.
Five different Gators drove in a run Sunday. Martin, Alonso, Larson and John Sternagel all had two-hit games.
Miami fell to 4-3. Florida next hosts Florida Gulf Coast at 7 p.m. Thursday.