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Thursday, October 06, 2022

The UF baseball team is in a familiar place.

At this point last season, the Gators were also undefeated, and they had brought 58 runners across the plate and had 58 hits. This season, those numbers are at 48 and 60, respectively.

But at this point last season, UF headed to Coral Gables and promptly lost two of three games to Miami.

This time around, the Hurricanes (3-1) remain a measuring stick for the Gators (5-0) early in the year, and the teams begin a three-game series in McKethan Stadium at 6:30 tonight.

"We definitely have a bad taste in our mouth from last year," sophomore third baseman Josh Adams said. "It'll be fun, though. Definitely will be fun."

The No. 24 Gators made their first appearance in the Baseball America rankings this week, and a series victory against the Hurricanes should boost them higher in the polls. After five games, UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan seems content with his team and the lineup he has been using.

"We may mix and match lefty versus righty or a position here and there, but I think … it's pretty much close to what it may end up being," O'Sullivan said.

As much as the Gators will say Miami is just another team, the intrastate rival brings out the competitive juices in all the players. O'Sullivan purposely avoided talking about Miami with his players earlier in the week so they would keep their focus on their Tuesday-Wednesday series with Eastern Michigan.

"It's a big series like it is every year," senior first baseman Brandon McArthur said. "Both teams coming in with high expectations, a lot to prove early in the season, but you've also got to remember that it is early in the season."

While the series against Florida State is spread out over two months, the Gators get the Hurricanes all in one weekend.

"It's definitely in the top two (rivalries), between this and Florida State," McArthur said. "As soon as you throw that first pitch, it's going to be intense."

The first pitches for UF will come from the same arms as last weekend, with senior Patrick Keating (1-0, 2.57 ERA) getting the start tonight followed by freshmen Alex Panteliodis (1-0, 3.00) and Nick Maronde (0-0, 0.00) on Saturday and Sunday.

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O'Sullivan expressed confidence in his two freshmen, though he stressed not making too big a deal out of their starts in a rivalry.

"Is this a big one? Absolutely," O'Sullivan said. "But as a coach, you try to downplay it as much as you can. They put pressure on themselves to begin with. You don't want to add to it."

But much of the attention toward the mound heading into this series has been on Miami ace Chris Hernandez (1-0, 1.50). The left-handed sophomore shut down the Gators in the third game of last year's series before his bullpen gave up 4 runs.

"That All-American we've got to face (Friday) night, you know he had a lot of success against us last year, so we've got our work cut out for us," O'Sullivan said. "He didn't look like a freshman last year."

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