UM Baseball Locke(d) Down

The image of Miami Hurricane reliever Rene Guerra's glove getting knocked off of his hand by a crushed line-drive à la Charlie Brown perfectly summarized the Florida Gators' crushing victory Saturday. Briefly, and it was very brief, the Canes held a 2-0 lead, but the Gators rallied and never looked back en route to an 8-2 victory in Gainesville.

UM Coach Jim Morris, on a hunch, saved ace Chris Hernandez to face the top-seeded Gators, but the pitcher frustrated himself and his team in the third inning. After cruising through the first two innings by racking up four strikeouts, the former freshman pitcher of the year walked the eighth and ninth hitters to set up a sacrifice.

Avery Barnes, the Gator leadoff hitter, laid down a beautiful bunt, and Hernandez elected to throw out the slow-footed, 240-pound catcher trucking for third rather than take the sure out at first. The umpire called the runner safe at third, and the Gators followed with three singles to plate four runs in the inning.

Hernandez took the loss and was eventually removed after 5 1/3 innings, but not before yielding six runs on seven hits, three walks, and one hit batter. Mirroring most of the season, Hernandez was sensational at times and erratic at others Saturday night. He has struggled to live up to his freshman numbers as his record has plummeted from 11-0 to 7-5 and his earned run average has nearly doubled.

Conversely, Gator starting pitcher Stephen Locke confounded the Canes with an array of off-speed pitches leading to a 7 1/3 inning victory including three strikeouts and no earned runs. No Hurricane hitter had an extra base hit in the game.

The injury plagued Hurricane bullpen was decent, allowing two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings, but the Gator pen overshadowed this performance by punching out four out of the five batters they faced.

The Canes will try to stave off elimination against Jacksonville at 1:00 p.m. today and should they win, Miami will have to play the Gators again at 6:30 p.m. tonight. Miami defeated Jacksonville earlier in the tournament on Friday by a score of 9-4, but do-or-die games have a way of bringing out the best in the competition so the Canes will need to wake up the bats if they want to avenge the savage chomp marks left by the Gators on Saturday.

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Michael North