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Miami rallies to beat No. 1 Gators in extra innings

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports

Florida’s baseball winning streak against the Miami Hurricanes is over. 

The Gators blew a three-run ninth-inning lead and No. 21 Miami beat the nation’s top-ranked team, 10-9, in 13 innings Saturday. UF won the previous six contests in the rivalry. 

"You don't want to overblow a loss the second game of the year, but it's disappointing," head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "It's not devastating, it's disappointing. We lost to a rival that we've played awfully well against over the years. They outplayed us today."

Florida had the game in hand heading into the ninth, but junior pitcher Franco Aleman walked five batters and allowed the Hurricanes to tie the score at 8 before he was replaced by Ben Specht. 

"He's our guy at the end of the game," O'Sullivan said of sticking with Aleman. "We had a three-run lead with him on the mound and I trust him. Today was just not his day, simple as that."

Following three scoreless extra innings, Raymond Gil’s RBI single in the 13th gave Miami its first lead and then a fielding error by first baseman Kris Armstrong put Florida behind by two runs. 

Kirby McMullen singled up the middle to bring the Gators back within one, but Armstrong popped up for the final out with the tying run on second. 

After homering in the opener, Nathan Hickey went yard again in the sixth inning to match Florida’s biggest lead of the game (8-3) and Josh Rivera led the team with three hits. 

"You can see how good our offense looks at times, but we haven't even gotten some of our better hitters going yet," O'Sullivan said. "Nathan's swinging the bat good the first two games."

UF jumped out to an early lead with a five-run first inning. Like he did Friday, Hickey started the scoring with his RBI single to plate Jacob Young. 

An RBI double by Jordan Butler brought home Hickey and McMullen, and then Butler scored on Rivera’s double down the left field line. Rivera added the last run on Sterlin Thompson’s center-field single. 

Miami got on the scoreboard in the second with Tony Jenkins’ RBI single, but UF pitcher Jack Leftwich struck out the next batter looking to end the inning. Leftwich finished with two strikeouts and allowed five hits and three runs in five innings pitched (91 pitches, 52 strikes), while Miami freshman starter Alejandro Rosario gave up six hits, five runs and two walks with four Ks in four innings. 

"Jack didn't have his changeup today," O'Sullivan said. "What may have been the difference in the game was that young kid (Rosario) regrouping and not letting the five runs in the first affect him. He kept it in tact and gave his team a chance to win." 

Both squads scored a pair of runs in the fifth. UM cut the deficit to 5-3 on RBI doubles by Anthony Vilar and Adrian Del Castillo, but the Gators regained their four-run lead with a pair of RBI doubles of their own from Armstrong and Rivera. 

The Hurricanes wouldn’t go away after Hickey’s homer, scoring in the seventh and eighth innings to pull within three runs against Florida pitchers Trey Van Der Weide (UF debut) and Aleman. 

Aleman began the ninth with back-to-back walks, and his third walk loaded the bases with the tying run on first. Del Castillo was hit by a pitch to plate Vilar and then Miami tied the game after Aleman walked two more batters.

"The game didn't come down to Franco at the end," O'Sullivan said. "Obviously we would think most times we would win a ball game with a three-run lead, but there's a lot of things that factored into today's loss. We made a lot of mistakes.

"Baseball's a different game that maybe football or basketball. You gotta turn around and play the next day. My job is to get these guys ready to play tomorrow. We can talk about this all night, but at the end of the day our goal is to win a series." 

Sunday’s rubber match is scheduled at 1 p.m.

Note: Jacob Young had a single to extend his hitting streak to 20 games (dating back to 2019).

Debut series

Who: No. 21 Miami (1-1) vs. No. 1 Florida (1-1)

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: Florida Ballpark at Alfred A. McKethan Field

Pitching: UM righty Victor Mederos vs. UF lefty Hunter Barco

Tickets: Sold out

Online: SECNetwork+

Radio: 98.1-FM, AM-850