They never occupied the field at the same time, but tonight’s game was a duel between sophomore Hunter Barco and Miami pitcher Carson Palmquist.
Two of the highest-touted lefty MLB Draft prospects, playing in an in-state rivalry game on a Friday night. With the major league still stuck in the minutia of lockout negotiations, it would be hard to find a better game on the planet than the one being played in Coral Gables, Florida.
In the end, Palmquist emerged victorious, producing five innings with no runs and just three hits. Barco, on his end, allowed seven hits and four runs in the same amount of innings.
Those four runs would prove to be enough to bury No. 14 Florida (8-3), falling to the No. 22 Hurricanes (7-1), 5-2.
Both aces announced their presence early, allowing a combined one hit through two innings. Barco was the culprit of the lone hit, but no runs were produced.
The Gators bats wouldn’t find their first hit until the top of the third when sophomore Colby Halter hit a two-out double into deep right. A subsequent walk from junior Jud Fabian put two runners on base for sophomore Sterlin Thompson, but he stranded both with a strikeout.
Florida’s next hit came on a single from sophomore Josh Rivera. That would be short-lived, though, as Palmquist picked off the Avon Park, Florida, native at first.
Scoring on either pitcher was going to take some heroics.
For Miami, the hero was third baseman Yohandy Morales. After Maxwell Romero Jr. opened the bottom of the fourth with a leadoff single, Morales lasered a home run past the left-field wall. Barco allowed a single on the next at-bat, sending the Miami faithful at Mark Light Field into an uproar.
Keeping his cool, Barco stopped the bleeding with an inning-closing strikeout to keep the score at two. Still, with the show Palmquist was putting on, two runs created a substantial margin for Miami.
Freshman Deric Fabian, with two outs, tried to generate a rally with a single that was followed by a hit-by-pitch against Halter. Jud walked, loading the bases for Thompson. With the leading run at first base, Thompson struck out for the third time against Palmquist. Florida had squandered its best chance to score of the night.
In the ensuing frame, Miami made the Gators pay. First, a bunt from CJ Kayfus brought Dominic Pitelli all the way home from second after Barco left home plate unattended in the play. Then, a double from Morales down the left field line brought Jacob Burke home from second.
After five innings, Miami led 4-0.
Once again, the Gators tried to complete a two-out rally in the sixth, but a strikeout from junior Kris Armstrong kept the scoreboard blank for the visitors. Florida was consistently putting runners on base, but couldn’t bring them around the diamond.
Freshman Blake Purnelll came in the Hurricanes’ side of the sixth to close out Barco’s night. The freshman put together a solid relief outing, allowing no hits and just one walk in two innings.
In the top of the seventh, with hope dwindling, the Gators found life.
Back-to-back walks for Deric and Halter opened the inning; after a strikeout from Jud, Thompson found his first hit of the night, an RBI single that brought Deric home. Then, a single from sophomore Wyatt Langford kept the rally going, scoring Halter.
Rivera arrived at the plate as the go-ahead run with two runners in scoring position, but a K closed the frame. Florida would need two runs in the final two innings to avoid their first Friday defeat of the season.
Make that three runs.
In the bottom of the seventh, Miami answered right back with a run of their own via a groundout that brought a runner home from third base. That would be the only score of the inning, but pushing the quota of runs needed for a Gator comeback to three felt deflating.
After a scoreless top of the eighth, freshman Karl Hartman came in for Florida in the bottom of the inning. The Merritt Island, Florida, native allowed one hit, but otherwise kept the ‘Canes at bay.
All eyes were on the top of the ninth. All eyes were on Jud.
The Ocala, Florida, native appeared to have a double at least, but a sliding catch in deep centerfield sent him to the dugout. Thompson followed him up with a single, but a strikeout from Langford and a ground out from Riopelle put the final nail in the coffin.
Florida emerged victorious in the Friday-night game against Miami last year, and lost the next two games to drop the series. The Gators have a chance to flip the script this weekend.
UF will take another shot at the Hurricanes tomorrow afternoon at 6 p.m.
Contact Carson Cashion at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CarsonCashion
Carson Cashion is a third-year sports journalism major at UF, and the sports editor at The Alligator for the 2022 summer semester. A native of Altamonte Springs, Carson spends his free time walking his dog, Baxter, and listening to good music. He is an avid Tennessee sports fan, and eagerly awaits watching one of his teams win a championship for the first time.