BY WALTER VILLA/Cprrespondent
CORAL GABLES – On an unusually chilly and windy night for Miami – 60 degrees with a stiff breeze blowing in between 15 and 18 mph – the Florida Gators bats warmed up just enough in a battle between the nation’s top two teams.
Sophomore right fielder Jacob Young pulled a run-scoring double down the third-base line, pushing across the go-ahead run as No. 2 Florida defeated No. 1 Miami, 2-1, before a sold-out crowd of 4,046 at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field on Friday night.
Florida (6-0), which has won 13 of the last 16 games in the series, got seven strong innings from starter Tommy Mace, who allowed two hits, two walks and one run but got no decision.
“We beat Miami – that’s all I care about,” Mace said of the 4-1 Hurricanes.
Sophomore reliever Ben Specht (1-0) earned his second career win, tossing one scoreless inning. But it was Nick Pogue – who entered Friday with a 15.00 ERA after a rocky Sunday start – who got the final three outs to earn the save.
After Specht walked Anthony Vilar to open the 11th, Pogue came in and struck out one of the nation’s top hitters, Adrian Del Castillo, in one of the game’s turning points. Pogue then got Raymond Gil and Alex Toral to end the game.
Florida’s only other run – which was unearned — was scored in the fifth. Vilar, Miami’s shortstop, made a throwing error, allowing Cory Acton to score from third.
Miami tied the score in the sixth on Gil’s sacrifice fly.
There was a bit of controversy in the bottom of the 10th after Miami’s JP Gates opened the inning with an opposite-field single. Miami replaced him with a pinch-runner, Chet Moore, who reached third with no outs on Tony Jenkins’ bunt to the right of the mound. However, Jenkins was called out for interference as the umpires ruled he ran too far inside on the base-line. Moore was sent back to first, and Miami’s threat fizzled.
“The umpires had the best view of it,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I don’t think they make that call unless they’re sure.”
Right-hander Jack Leftwich (1-0, 1.00 ERA) will start for Florida at 7 p.m. Saturday as the Gators go for the series sweep. And with Pogue out of the rotation – at least for now – highly touted freshman Hunter Barco (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will start on Sunday. Barco, a lefty, was the New York Mets’ 24th-round pick last year.
Miami is scheduled to pitch righty Chris McMahon (1-0).
“It’s one game. We have to turn the page and be ready to go,” Miami coach Gino DiMare said. “We still have a chance to win the series. Tomorrow is the most important game of the year.”
All games this weekend are sold out and will stream live on ACC Network Extra, via the ESPN app, and can be heard on AM-850/98.1-FM.