BY WALTER VILLA/Correspondent
CORAL GABLES – The second-ranked Florida Gators – who were one strike away from defeat – rallied to defeat top-ranked Miami 7-4 in 10 innings Saturday night.
The Gators (7-0) won their third straight extra-inning game, thanks to big hits by Jud Fabian and Kirby McMullen. With the series finale set for 1 p.m. Sunday, Florida has already clinched the set against Miami for the sixth straight year.
Saturday’s game turned in the ninth. With Miami leading 2-1, Florida’s Kris Armstrong led off with an opposite-field single that was hit off the end of his bat. Josh Rivera’s sacrifice bunt pushed Armstrong to second. After pinch-hitter Brock Edge struck out, Fabian fell behind 0-2 to Miami closer Daniel Federman. After two fouls and a ball low, Fabian tied the score with an RBI double down the third-base line.
“(Federman) had thrown me two cutters, first two strikes,” Fabian said. “Then he went away from the cutter, but I knew he was going to come back to it.
“Nobody wants to be the last out. I didn’t want to go down. I got a good piece (on the hit). I rolled over it a bit, but it was good enough to be fair.”
Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said Fabian’s double was fair by just “six to eight inches”, remarking that the margin between Florida and Miami is slim.
In the 10th, with freshman reliever Alex McFarlane on the mound for Miami, McMullen drilled a 1-0 pitch to left for just his second career homer.
McMullen, a senior and a first-time starter, apparently got too excited running the bases as the umpires warned both dugouts.
“I don’t think it was anything more than that – just emotions,” O’Sullivan said. “Miami got excited when (Alex) Toral hit his homer (to put Miami up 1-0 in the second). Our guys were excited, too.
“But that is one of the things we’re going to talk about when we get on the bus. We’re going to stay on our side, and we’re going to encourage our players. We’re not going to play the game that way.”
Either way, the Gators – who had been 2-for-42 when trailing after eight innings the past two years – added four more runs and held on for the stunning win against Miami (4-2).
It’s a safe bet the Gators will own that top spot when the next polls are posted.
Freshman left-hander Hunter Barco (0-0, 0.00 ERA) is expected to face Miami sophomore Slade Cecconi (1-0, 1.50 ERA) in the final game of the series Sunday, which will begin at 1 p.m., with live streaming from ACC Network Extra.