Florida baseball: Gators out for some revenge at in-state rival Miami this weekend

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

It's a new baseball season, but the Florida Gators still haven’t forgotten about their previous matchup with the University of Miami. 

Last year, in the debut of Florida Ballpark, the Hurricanes claimed the opening-weekend series against the Gators in Gainesville, handing UF a pair of losses across Saturday and Sunday at the program’s new home. 

“We haven’t forgot it, I know that. I think it’s on our minds,” UF starting pitcher Garrett Milchin said. “Obviously we don’t like losing to Miami.” 

Now, more than a year later, UF is eyeing revenge when the No. 14-ranked Gators (8-2) visit the No. 22-ranked ‘Canes in Coral Gables for a three-game series, with first pitch set for 7 p.m. Friday. 

“We hate Miami, they hate us, so we’re looking forward to going down there,” Jud Fabian said. “We’re going to play with a lot of confidence, and it’s going to be a competitive weekend.”

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And it won’t be an easy one.

Miami has seven wins in eight tries to begin the season, with the lone loss coming Feb. 25 against Harvard University, and UM’s 7-1 record to begin the season marks the program’s best start since the ‘Canes started 10-0 in the 2013 campaign. 

As the Gators competed in consecutive midweek games against in-state opposition, the ‘Canes are well-rested heading into the matchup, having had the week off prior to hosting Florida. 

There are no excuses, only perspective. 

“It’s really going to be a good test to see, especially for some of the young guys, how they can handle adversity and some tough atmospheres on the road,” Milchin said. “It’s always electric, the place is almost always sold out since I’ve been here. It always gets a little chippy.”

The Gators kicked off Opening Day of the 2021 season against Miami, at their new Florida Ballpark in Gainesville, on Feb. 19, 2021. Miami won two of three games that weekend.

Miami isn’t the only team in a groove heading into the series. 

Florida’s hoping it has found a consistent presence at the plate after a streaky start in the batter’s box. In UF’s last time out, the Gators crushed six home runs, the program’s most in a game since 2015, in Wednesday night’s 17-0 rout of Florida A&M

Milchin, the sixth-year starter, had a cushion throughout the night after Fabian and Sterlin Thompson rocketed first-inning home runs over the walls in left and right field, respectively.

It marked Florida’s largest shutout victory in more than a decade, since the Gators downed Mississippi State, 18-0, on April 9, 2011. 

Florida didn’t ease up at the plate down the stretch, scoring seven runs across the final three innings against the Rattlers. 

UF head coach Kevin O’Sullivan continues to emphasize the value of patience, but the Gators remain hopeful they’ve found a better rhythm heading into a rivalry weekend.

“It should be fun, it’s going to be a learning experience. Opening weekend’s a learning experience, first time you go on the road, to Stetson’s, a learning experience. First time you go on the road for a weekend series, it’s going to be different,” O’Sullivan said. “All you can do is prepare your players the best you can to handle different environments, and hopefully we’ll respond the right way. But at the end of the day, it’s a long season.”