BY WALTER VILLA/Correspondent
CORAL GABLES – As far as Florida’s baseball program is concerned, Gator Country extends south all the way to Miami.
The second-ranked Gators proved it again Sunday, completing a rare road sweep of a team rated No. 1 in the nation.
Florida, which will own the top ranking by Monday morning, defeated the shell-shocked Miami Hurricanes, 5-3.
The Gators (8-0) are 14-4 against Miami (4-3) over the past half-dozen years, winning all six series.
Freshman Hunter Barco (1-0), making his first collegiate start, allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings, exiting after throwing 92 pitches.
Barco, a pro prospect, was impressive, allowing just two hits, two walks and one run – on a sacrifice fly. His best pitch was a 1-2 splitter that froze Raymond Gil with the bases loaded and two down in the fifth.
“That’s the pitch I wanted to throw in that situation,” Barco said of the splitter. “I knew I had to bear down. I couldn’t let anyone score.”
Barco said he used Friday’s series opener to watch and learn as he prepared for his Sunday start.
“It was huge to take in the scene,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this. To get to pitch in this series was great.”
The Gators hustled their way to a pair of runs in first inning. Alert base-running by Kirby McMullen and Jacob Young keyed the rally.
Then, after just one Gators homer in the first two games of this series – which was due in large part to heavy winds blowing in Friday and Saturday night — Florida suddenly found its power. On a sunny Sunday with more normal wind conditions, Josh Rivera hit a solo shot in the second and Jud Fabian did the same in the fifth.
Florida held on despite three RBIs by Gil, who hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth and a two-run homer off reliever David Luethje in the eighth.
Rivera’s RBI single to center in the ninth extended Florida’s lead to 5-3, and freshman lefty Ryan Cabarcas pitched two scoreless and hitless innings to lock down his first career save.
Cabarcas, a South Florida native who played at American Heritage, nearly gave up an RBI double by Tony Jenkins, whose drive to left in the ninth inning curved foul by a few feet.
Jenkins then struck out looking at the next pitch to end the game.
“What can you say about Ryan?” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He came in and threw nothing but strikes. That was a big moment for him to be able to close it out.”
Florida returns home to host FAMU at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Notes: It’s the fourth time the Gators have has swept Miami in O’Sullivan’s tenure (2011, 2012, 2017, 2020). The Gators have won 15 of the last 18 games against the Hurricanes … the Gators are 8-0 for the first time in O’Sullivan’s 13-season tenure. … Florida has won its first eight games for the fifth time in program history. The 1989 and 2002 Gators hold the school record for consecutive wins to open a season (11), while the 1956 Gators won their first 10 games, and the 1992 Gators won their first eight … UF is 34-13 against UM under O’Sullivan.