CORAL GABLES — After relying on junior pitching and a senior home run to take the first two games over No. 1 Miami it was the freshman classes turn to make an impact as the Gators swept the Hurricanes with a 5-3 win on Sunday.
Hunter Barco earned the second start of his career and first-weekend start and the offense made sure to give him a lead before he even stepped foot on the mound
Jordan Butler roped a one-out double into right field, took third on a passed ball and Kirby McMullen followed with a walk. Jacob Young continued a hot weekend with a single to left to load the bases with two outs. Freshman Nathan Hickey grounded into what looked like an inning-ending fielder’s choice but Young’s hustle from first to second and a lazy throw resulted in a safe call there as McMullen rounded third and slid safely into home for the second run of the inning.
Freshman Josh Rivera blasted his second home run of the season on a hanging slider in the second inning to give Florida a 3-0.
Barco was deemed by some to be one of the best freshmen in the entire country and his coach has spoken highly of him ever since the Jacksonville product has stepped foot on campus.
“He’s got a chance to be one of those next group of pitchers that have come through here that have been All-Americans and first-rounders, pitched in the big leagues,” O’Sullivan said of Barco. “He’s that talented.”
Barco looked every bit of that early on. The lefty sat 92-95 with his fastball and really found a home with his slider early on. Barco didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning but did struggle with his command somewhat early on, running his pitch count up.
Barco didn’t get himself into real trouble until the fourth inning when he started with a walk to Miami center fielder Tony Jenkins. Adrian Del Castillo singled to give Miami runners on the corners and Raymond Gil lofted a deep sacrifice fly to center field to score Miami’s first run.
Jud Fabian picked Barco up with a mammoth home run to left-center field in the top of the fifth but Barco steered back into trouble in the bottom of the frame.
The freshman made quick work striking out the first two batters but hit two batters and gave up a single to load the bases and give life back to a crowd that had been sucked out of the game since the top of the first inning and brought Kevin O’Sullivan out to the mound.
“He just said, ‘let’s go, right here, get this guy, you got this,” Barco recalled of the interaction.
Barco struck out Gil with a splitter on the outside corner to get out of the jam and emotion poured out of him, yelling at his dugout and pumping his fist as his teammates emptied the dugout to greet him.
O’Sullivan sent Barco back out to the mound in the sixth inning to pitch to the left-handed-hitting JP Gates. Barco got Gates swinging before being lifted in favor of David Leuthje. The sophomore struck out the first two batters he faced but was touched up for two runs in the eighth inning. Florida added an insurance run in the top of the ninth when Rivera singled up the middle to score Young and freshman Ryan Cabarcas finished the game off to earn his first save.
The Gators are 8-0 for just the fifth time in school history and will host FAMU at McKethan Stadium on Tuesday night before a trip to Deland to face Stetson on Wednesday.
8-0 Starts in UF baseball history
Continued Dominance of Miami
Sweeps under Kevin O’Sullivan:
The only other sweep of Miami since annual 3-game series began in 2004 was in 2006 (in Coral Gables)
Kevin O’Sullivan is 34-13 all-time against Miami.