College baseball: No. 6 Miami looks for revenge against top-ranked Gators
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- When the Gators and the Hurricanes face off on the baseball diamond, it always feels a little different. It's a rivalry that dates back to 1940 and includes numerous postseason matchups.
But this year's series carries a little more meaning than usual with both teams ranked in the top 10, as No. 1 Florida begins a three-game weekend set against No. 6 Miami on Friday at 7 p.m. at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables.
"It's probably the biggest series in the country in college baseball," Miami coach Jim Morris said Thursday.
Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan agrees.
"It's always a big series against Miami," O'Sullivan said Wednesday. "It will be another test for us. It's an important series for our fans and for their fans."
Both teams enter the series undefeated. The Gators (5-0) and their loaded roster have outscored opponents by a combined score of 44-20 to start the season, and the Hurricanes (4-0) have allowed one run or less in three of their first four games.
"We get most of the guys down here in Miami and [the Gators] get all the guys up in north Florida," Hurricanes junior pitcher Bryan Garcia said of the rivalry. "So it's kind of like north vs. south. It's just a big rivalry with tradition and it's always gone back and forth, back and forth."
The Gators have been led by freshman Deacon Liput, who is batting .500 with 10 RBIs, and a pitching staff that has recorded a 2.80 ERA over its first five games.
The Hurricanes' pitching staff, which features left-handers Thomas Woodrey and Michael Mediavilla, has posted a 1.95 ERA to start the season.
"It's definitely going to tell us what we've got," Garcia said of facing the Gators. "We're excited. Everybody knows they're good, that's why they're ranked No. 1 in the nation. But we believe we can compete with them, no doubt."
Although Miami leads the all-time series against Florida 127-114-1, the Gators have had the edge recently. Florida has won 21 of its past 26 games against Miami -- a span that dates back to 2009.
The Gators even ended the Hurricanes' season last year, defeating Miami twice in the 2015 College World Series.
"We're just going into it with a chip on our shoulder," Woodrey said. "We want to play them good and we want to win. They finished us off last year and we have to use that as motivation going into this weekend."
That motivation has Miami looking to achieve one thing this weekend.
"We want to go out here and kick their butts," Hurricanes outfielder Jacob Heyward said. "That's all it's about."