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UF Baseball: Gators Fall to Hurricanes in 13 Innings

Kirby McMullen brought the Gators within a run in extra innings with his third hit of the game, but UF came up short Saturday.

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY ZACH DIRLAM

Top-ranked Florida held a five-run lead after six innings but surrendered three runs in the ninth inning and eventually dropped a 13-inning game to No. 21 Miami, making Sunday afternoon a series-determining tilt at Florida Ballpark / McKethan Field.

The Gators jumped on Miami right away, plating five runs in the first inning. After reaching on an error, aggressive baserunning by third-year sophomore outfielder Jacob Young gave the Gators a runner on second base despite a flyout. Second-year freshman catcher Nathan Hickey continued his hot start with an RBI single, moved to third on a double by fifth-year senior infielder Kirby McMullen, and crossed home with McMullen courtesy of a single up the middle by fourth-year junior utility player Jordan Butler. Second-year freshman Josh Rivera and true freshman outfielder Sterlin Thompson also drove in runs with a double and single, respectively.

Miami brought three across by the time third-year sophomore infielder Kris Armstrong plated a run with a slicing opposite-field double, and Rivera smacked his second RBI double of the afternoon the very next at bat.

Hickey’s solo home run over the right field berm gave Florida an 8-3 lead after six innings.

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Junior right-handed pitcher Franco Aleman escaped the eighth with three strikeouts and only allowed an inherited runner to score, but in the ninth he walked three of the first four batters to load the bases, surrendered a run via a hit batter, and walked in the tying runs with two outs. Butler eventually took the loss for Florida after three scoreless frames in extra innings. Butler issued a one-out walk and hit a batter, after which second-year freshman Brandon Sproat gave up the go-ahead run on a two-out single. A fielding error at first base brought an insurance run across for Miami.

McMullen, who finished the day with three hits in seven at bats, drove in a run with a one-out single in the bottom half of the 13th, but the Gators left the tying and winning runs on base.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Rivera. The Avon Park, Fla., native had hits in five of his first eight at bats this weekend, and his line included two doubles, a triple, three runs, and two runs batted in. His .500 batting average through two games is second only to Hickey.

STANDOUT STAT: .555 – Hickey’s batting average through the first two games.

Hickey has hits in five of his nine at bats, with a pair of home runs, a double, and five runs batted in. He also drew two walks Saturday, lifting his on-base percentage to .636.

FROM COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN

On leaving Franco Aleman in during the ninth inning…
“If that’s going to be his role, (pulling him) that’s not sending the right message to him. He’s got to be the guy, probably, at the end of the game for us. Today was just not his day. Simple as that.”

On the message to the team after the game…
“Disappointed. You don’t want to blow a loss the second game of the year, but the fact of the matter is, between (13) walks and hit batters, we just were not aggressive. Both starters, their pitch count has gotten up to 85-90 pitches through five. Jack [Leftwich] didn’t have his changeup today. They had seven lefties in the lineup. We made a couple baserunning mistakes.

“The game didn’t come down to Franco at the end. Obviously, we would think most times we would win a ballgame with a 3-run lead. But there’s a lot of things that factored into today’s loss. You go back to the (fifth) inning where Jack had two outs and nobody on, and they score two runs. The percentage of that happening is like 1.5 percent. We need to focus. We need to finish the inning. We talk about shutdown innings all the time. We scored five in the first, turned around and gave up one in the top of the second. It’s a game of momentum, and it just doesn’t fall on Jack and Franco. We had it teed up. Their lineup was fairly easy to navigate in terms of when we were going to use our pen. Our lefties didn’t do a good job against their left-handed hitters. There’s a lot of things that went into it.

“It’s a loss. It’s disappointing. But we need to turn around and get ready to play tomorrow.”

UP NEXT: Florida and Miami play for the series Sunday, with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m., live streaming via SECNetwork+. Second-year freshman left-handed pitcher Hunter Barco is expected to start on the mound for the Gators.

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