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Three home runs power No. 5 Gators to series-opening win against Hurricanes

Three home runs power No. 5 Gators to series-opening win against Hurricanes

CORAL GABLES —Hurricanes coach J.D. Arteaga called the Gators a “measuring stick” for Miami early in his first season as UM’s head coach.

On the first night of the series, Miami came up short. The Hurricanes fell 7-3 to the visiting No. 5 Gators at Mark Light Field.

“I don’t think we were outclassed in any way,” Arteaga said. “I thought it was a good game. … Little things that, in the game of baseball, you have to do to win when you’re matched up against a good team, we didn’t do.”

Miami (5-4) stuck with Florida (7-2) for most of the game, but the Gators teed off for three crucial runs against the Hurricanes’ bullpen. Designated hitter Cade Kurland and first baseman Jac Caglianone dealt the final blows with back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning, which gave Florida insurance and put the game out of reach for Miami.

The Gators got on the board first when Kurland singled and scored on an error by Antonio Jimenez, but UM starter Gage Ziehl limited the damage to just one run.

The Hurricanes struck back in the third when first baseman Jason Torres sent a line drive the opposite way, sneaking it over the right-field fence for his team-leading sixth home run of the year. His blast put Miami up 2-1. It would be the only lead UM held in the game.

“He’s been great,” Arteaga said. “One of the bright spots, offensively.”

The Gators knotted the game up at two in the fourth inning, putting a pair of runners in scoring position with one out. Right fielder Ty Evans scored the tying run on a close play at the plate. Center fielder Michael Robertson pushed Florida back ahead with an infield single.

Florida added another run in the fifth on a solo home run by catcher Luke Heyman, who hit a ball just over the center-field wall and the glove of Jacoby Long. The Gators added two more runs on two seventh-inning home runs and one more in the ninth inning on a sacrifice fly.

“There’s no breaks (in Florida’s lineup),” Arteaga said. “You can’t take a break and just throw something over the plate because they can hurt you. One through nine, they’ve got guys that can hurt you.”

The Hurricanes chased Gators starter Cade Fisher in the fifth inning and scored a run on a bases-loaded walk from relief pitcher Ryan Slater, but it would be the last run the Hurricanes could push across. Slater settled down and pitched 3 1/3 innings of relief, allowing just one run.

Ziehl picked up a quality start in his third game of the year, giving up three earned runs across six innings while striking out nine. But Myles Caba struggled in relief, giving up a pair of home runs and giving Florida the insurance it needed.

“I thought Gage did a great job of really battling and giving us that one extra inning,” Arteaga said. “It didn’t help us win today, but it could very easily help us win Saturday and Sunday.”

The Hurricanes and Gators face off for the second game of the series at 3 p.m. on Saturday and the finale is at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

“Obviously, it was a tough loss,” Torres said. “But we’re going to come back out here tomorrow and play again.”