GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida locked up its first road sweep of in-state rival Miami (Fla.) since 2012, toppling the No. 1 Hurricanes, 5-3, Sunday behind an outstanding start from freshman left-hander Hunter Barco and a pair of big hits from fellow freshman Josh Rivera.
The No. 2 Gators jumped out to a 2-0 lead via two hits and a fielder's choice in the first inning. Junior utility man Jordan Butler laced a double in the second at bat of the game, and sophomore outfielder Jacob Young extended his scorching-hot weekend (he finished the series 7 of 13, good for a .538 average) with an RBI single three hitters later.
Rivera made it a 3-0 lead on the fifth pitch of the second inning, as he launched a no-doubt home run over the left field wall.
Sophomore outfielder Jud Fabian answered a fourth-inning sacrifice fly from Miami — the only run Barco allowed in 5.1 innings on the hill — with a towering solo home run over the scoreboard in left center, making it 4-1.
No. 1 hitters who hit 💣💣 >>— Florida Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) February 23, 2020
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A Hurricanes two-run homer in the eighth created some drama, but Young and Rivera responded for the Gators in the top of the ninth. Young led off the frame with a double to right field, and Rivera drove him in with a two-out single up the middle.
Barco, who made his second career start, earned his first win of the year, allowing just one run on two hits and two walks. The Jacksonville, Fla., native struck out seven Hurricanes, including the last two batters he faced. With the bases loaded in the fifth, a product of two hit batters and a single, Barco froze Hurricanes clean-up hitter Raymond Gil to end the inning. Barco took the hill to face the first batter of the sixth, and fanned lefty JP Gates before he turned it over to the bullpen.
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Sophomore left-hander Ryan Cabarcas, a Pembroke Pines, Fla., native, earned the first save of his career, as he tossed a pair of scoreless, no-hit innings to seal the sweep.
8-0. Florida has won its first eight games for the fifth time in program history. The 1989 and 2002 Gators hold the school record for consecutive wins to open a season (11), while the 1956 Gators won their first 10 games, and the 1992 Gators won their first eight.
In the spotlight
Rivera. The bat has been hot and cold for Rivera (he entered the series with a .286 average), but his glove made him the second true freshman shortstop to start under Kevin O'Sullivan (with current student assistant coach Nolan Fontana being the other), and he flashed it several times this weekend.
He also got the bat going in Coral Gables, recording five hits in 11 at bats (.455 average), with two runs, three RBI, a home run, and a double.
Hear from coach Kevin O'Sullivan
On the sweep and the win today — "We gave up one run combined over 7.1 with Hunter (Barco) and Ryan (Cabarcas). Ryan being from Miami, to close out a close game here, it's a special moment for him, and for us. Jacob Young had a terrific weekend all the way around. He played good defense, ran the bases really well. That baserunning in the first inning when they tried to get the force out at second was a heads up play. Just a catalyst. Really proud of him."
On Rivera's big game — "Josh had a really good game offensively, but I can't say enough about his defense as well. This is not the easiest infield to play on at times because it's so quick. He came in and got some balls, made some really nice plays."
On the offense today — "We had a chance to play some other guys today. Jud (Fabian) had a big home run. Facing probably a first-round arm in Slade Cecconi, thought we did a really nice job getting his pitch count up. We knew the bullpen might be a little light for them after they used some of their main guys on back-to-back days."
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On Barco getting through adversity at different points in the day — "He had got by the first three innings just with the fastball. In order to pitch against teams like Miami and in our league, you're going to have to command more than just one pitch. He bared down, and the fifth inning he really found command of his slider. When he has his slider for strikes, with the fastball he has, and he's got that changeup that's got some tumbling action, he's really tough to hit. But he's young. And he's going to have to learn throwing hard is not the answer all the time. It's great to have a great arm, but you still have to command your secondary pitches. I was really pleased he was able to find that in the fifth inning.
Florida swept the Hurricanes for the fourth time under Coach O'Sullivan, with the other sweeps coming in 2011, 2012 (in Coral Gables), and 2017. The Gators have won 15 of the last 18 games in the series, have won each of the last six regular-season series, and are 34-13 against the Hurricanes under Coach O'Sullivan.
Florida's all-time record against Miami improves to 127-130-1, and it is now 49-80 against the Hurricanes on the road.;