Friday Roundup: Miami Takes Opener Against Florida (VIDEO)

CORAL GABLES, Fla.—Miami has struggled mightily against rival Florida in recent years, losing 13 of its last 14 contests against the Gators heading into this weekend. But this year, the Hurricanes headed into their annual series against UF as the favorites, thanks to their experienced and accomplished starting rotation and their most physical lineup in years. That newfound physicality was on display Friday at Alex Rodriguez Park, as the Hurricanes blasted three home runs and hit three doubles in a 6-4 win.

Chris Diaz

Chris Diaz scattered eight hits in seven innings.

Florida jumped on Miami ace Chris Diaz for three runs in the top of the first, but Miami kept its composure and responded quickly against Gators lefty Bobby Poyner. Alex Hernandez’s two-run double in the second kickstarted Miami’s offense, and the Hurricanes took the lead for good with two more in the third, highlighted by freshman Willie Abreu’s opposite-field home run, which just cleared the left-field fence and the glove of a leaping Ryan Larson. Dale Carey and Garrett Kennedy added no-doubter solo shots in the fifth and sixth to give Diaz some breathing room. Miami hit just 14 home runs in 62 games last year. It now has four homers in its first five games this spring.

“It’s a big win for us, no question,” Miami coach Jim Morris said. “I thought it was a great effort for our guys after we got down 3-0, we fought back and were able to get some big hits. It was great to see our offense come alive for Chris.”

Diaz kept the Gators off the scoreboard after the first, scattering eight hits over seven innings. His excellent 83-84 mph changeup was very effective, and he held the velocity on his 88-91 fastball throughout his start.

“Obviously my first inning didn’t go as well as I wanted to, but I grinded it out, made some good pitches and was able to keep this team close, and then the offense took over and really helped us win,” Diaz said. “I knew these guys came out ready to hit. When you get runs like that, it puts you in a calm zone and helps you pitch.”

Freshman Bryan Garcia worked the final two innings for his first save. He attacked the Gators with a power fastball that sat at 92-94 mph, and he looked the answer Miami has been searching for at the back of its bullpen.

“It was good to see Garcia come in and get his first save and go right after people,” Morris said. “He showed some courage going after some guys for the first time in this ballpark.”

Other Highlights

• No. 12 UCLA got an outstanding start from James Kaprielian (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K) in a 5-2 win against No. 22 Cal Poly. A week after Cal Poly ace lefthander Matt Imhof struck out 14 in a dominating start against Kansas State, the Bruins handed him his first loss, as he allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits over five innings. Luke Persico (4-for-4, R, RBI, 2 3B) led the UCLA offense.

• Aaron Nola exited after seven no-hit innings for No. 8 LSU, allowing just one walk while striking out eight in a 9-0 win. Good luck finding any pitcher in college baseball off to a better start than Nola, who is now 2-0, 0.00 with 14 strikeouts, one walk and four hits allowed through 13 innings.

Aaron Nola (photo by Andrew Woolley)

Aaron Nola has allowed no runs and four hits over 13 innings. (Photo by Andrew Woolley)

• Virginia Military Institute junior righthander Reed Garrett threw a no-hitter against Lafayette, striking out 13 and allowed just one baserunner on a fifth-inning walk. He struck out nine of the final 14 hitters to close out the no-hitter, and his 13 punchouts were the most by a VMI pitcher in nearly eight years. I was on hand for Garrett’s season debut last week against UNC Wilmington, and he showed a quality four-pitch mix: an 88-91 fastball, a sharp 78-79 curve, a short 84-86 slider/cutter and a low-80s changeup. But he was not particularly efficient last week and exited after five innings. On Friday, he threw 117 pitches (84 for strikes) and went to three-ball counts just three times all night. Lafayette hit just four balls out of the infield.

• Nebraska handed No. 2 Oregon State its first loss of the season, 9-2 in Arizona. Austin Christensen (2-for-5, R, 2 RBI) led Nebraska’s balanced 10-hit attack in support of Christian DeLeon (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K), who bested Andrew Moore (6.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K), and the Oregon State defense made three errors—two of them by second baseman Andy Peterson.

• San Francisco’s Brendan Hendricks smacked a solo home run in the top of the 19th to lift the Dons to a 6-5 win at Cal State Fullerton. USF’s Houston Hibberd (7.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K) was masterful in relief, as was Fullerton’s Koby Gauna (9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K). First-team preseason All-American Bradley Zimmer (2-for-7, 2 R, 4 RBI) tripled and homered for San Francisco. The third-ranked Titans fell to 2-3 on the year after losing the longest game in program history.

• Brandon Downes (2-for-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI) led top-ranked Virginia’s offense against first-team preseason All-American Jeff Hoffman (6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K), as the Cavaliers earned a 3-2 win. Nathan Kirby (6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER) moved up to the Friday starter role and earned the win.

• Adam Hall (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER) led Xavier to a 2-1 win against No. 17 North Carolina in the Tar Heels’ home opener. Joe Forney (2-for-3, R, RBI) led the Xavier offense against Benton Moss (7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K). The Tar Heels are off to a 1-3 start; last year, they did not take their third loss until April 23.

• Ty Nichols (7 IP, 6 H, 0 R) led Sacramento State to a 1-0 win against Texas A&M and Daniel Mengden (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB 9 K), who took the hard-luck loss. Keep an eye on the Hornets, our preseason pick to win the Western Athletic Conference. They are off to a 4-2 start, with back-to-back road wins at Fresno State and Texas A&M.

• In the series we highlighted in Weekend Preview, Tennessee broke open a 3-2 game with five runs in the seventh, then held off UNLV’s five-run rally in the ninth to win 8-7. Vols senior Nick Williams (6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) out-pitched UNLV preseason All-American Erick Fedde (6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 7 K), and Nick Senzel hit a grand slam to highlight Tennessee’s big seventh inning.

• Oregon’s Tommy Thorpe (7 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) bested Loyola Marymount ace Colin Welmon (7.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K), and the Ducks broke the game open with eight runs in the eighth en route to a 12-2 win.

• Brandon Finnegan (7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K) posted another overpowering performance in TCU’s 10-0 win against BYU.

Brandon Finnegan

Brandon Finnegan overpowered BYU (Photo by John Williamson)

• Kyle Schwarber (4-for-5, 3 R, 3 RBI, 3B, HR) spearheaded Indiana’s 15-hit assault behind Joey Denato (6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K), as the Hoosiers cruised to an 8-2 win against Washington in Arizona.

• Jordan Montgomery (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K) dominated for the second straight week, leading South Carolina to a 4-0 win against Eastern Kentucky.

• Luke Weaver (5 IP, 8 H, 3 ER) improved to 2-0 in Florida State’s 8-3 win against Georgia.

• Stephen F. Austin State pushed across a run in the 13th on a sacrifice fly to upset No. 21 Alabama, 2-1. SFA’s Cameron Gann (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) outpitched Bama ace Spencer Turnbull (5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 6 K).

• Chris Ellis (9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K) shut down Georgia State’s potent offense in Mississippi’s 3-0 win. The talented Ellis appears to have harnessed his significant potential, as he has opened the year with 15 consecutive scoreless innings, allowing just nine hits.

• Long Beach State picked up its first win of the year, beating preseason All-American Ryan Burr (2.1 IP, 2 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 3 K) and Arizona State 11-0. Ino Patron (3-for-5, 3 R, 3 RBI) led the LBSU offense in support of Nick Sabo (8 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K). The Sun Devils are 2-3.

• Tyler Beede (6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K) was brilliant in No. 9 Vanderbilt’s 14-1 shellacking of Illinois-Chicago. The Commodores pounded out 19 hits, as 10 different players recorded hits.

• Parker French (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K) and Mark Payton (4-for-5, R, 3 RBI, 3B) led No. 18 Texas to a 9-3 win against Stanford.