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No. 16 Miami takes two of three from No. 23 Florida for series win

The No. 16 Miami Hurricanes baseball team has struggled mightily against the Florida Gators in recent years, dropping 13 of their last 14 meetings to their in-state rivals.

But this weekend the Hurricanes had finally had enough of it. They finally pulled the proverbial monkey off their backs.

Miami (4-3) took two of three games from Florida this weekend to win its first series against the Gators since 2009.

The Hurricanes took the series opener 6-4 Friday night behind three home runs and 10 hits. Freshman Willie Abreu, senior Dale Carey, and junior Garrett Kennedy all sent pitches over the wall for the Hurricanes, marking Miami’s first three-homer game since March 13, 2012 against Illinois State.

“It’s a big win for us, no question,” head coach Jim Morris said. I thought it was a great effort by our guys after we got down 3-0 to fall back, and were able to get some big hits. It was great to see the offense come alive for [starting pitcher] Chris [Diaz] and Chris pitched a very good game.”

The night didn’t start off so great for Miami as Florida jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning against Diaz. The Hurricanes fought back though with two runs in the second and two more in the third.

David Thompson scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 3-3 and Abreu followed that up with a solo shot to left field that was nearly caught by Florida left fielder Ryan Larson to give Miami a 4-3 lead.

“I really had no idea,’’ said Abreu of his first career home run. “I was running as fast as I could around the bases trying to get to home plate. I saw the guy on the floor so I just kept going. Then I heard the noise, everybody scream, and I turned around and I wasn’t sure what happened. They just said, ‘Keep going! Keep going!’ I scored and it was a good feeling, a really good feeling.’’

Carey then hit a leadoff home run in the fifth inning and Kennedy added another in the sixth. After settling down Diaz picked up the win for Miami, surrendering just those three earned runs in the first inning on eight hits with three strikeouts and zero walks. Freshman right-hander Bryan Garcia pitched the final two innings to pick up his first career save.

“It's a great feeling to get that first one out of the way," Carey said. “Now you have to come back tomorrow to win the series. You just have to keep going.”

And keep it going they did.

Miami’s hot hitting continued Saturday night with two more home runs as the Hurricanes clinched the series with a 5-2 win.

Kennedy connected on his second home run in as many nights and freshman Zack Collins crushed one over the wall for not only his first collegiate home run but also his first career hit.

“It was good team effort, it was a big win,” Morris said. “We had a lot of guys do some good things and our pitching was very good tonight. [Bryan Radziewski] pitched good, but our whole bullpen did a good job.”

The Hurricanes didn’t have to come from behind Saturday night as they struck for the game’s first runs. Senior outfielder Tyler Palmer gave Miami a 1-0 lead in the third inning with an RBI single and Kennedy’s home run in the fourth increased the lead to 2-0.

Florida (5-3) fought back though, picking up runs in the fifth and sixth to tie the game back up at 2-2. That knocked Radziewski out after 5.2 innings of work, picking up a no decision.

That was when Collins stepped up in the bottom of the sixth and retook control of the ball game with a three-run home run to give Miami a 5-2 lead.

“I was pretty confident in myself that I was going to come through right there,” Collins said. “To be honest, all I was thinking was ‘don't hit into a double play.’…I was pumped. To go up three runs against Florida, that's awesome.”

Relievers AJ Salcines and Bryan Garcia combined to shut Florida out over the final two innings as Garcia picked up his second straight save. Cooper Hammond came away with the win for Miami.

Miami couldn’t pull off the sweep though, falling to Florida 6-4 in the series finale Sunday afternoon.

The Gators knocked around starting pitcher Andrew Suarez in the first inning, connecting for six hits and four runs to put the Hurricanes in an early 4-0 hole.

Suarez settled down after that and didn’t allow another run in seven innings of work but Miami was unable to dig itself out of the early hole.

Miami was able to cut Florida’s lead in half with a Brad Fieger RBI double in the first inning and a solo home run by Carey in the second. However, the defense committed two errors in the fourth to allow the Gators to increase their lead to 6-2.

Palmer and Thompson answered for Miami with RBI singles in the sixth to pull the Hurricanes to within two runs again but that was as close as they would get the rest of the way.

The Hurricanes had one last opportunity in the ninth with two runners on and just one out, but Florida reliever Danny Young struck out Sebastian Diaz and Eric Hanhold forced Carey into a flyout to centerfield to end the game.