Thanks to a late season slump, the Miami Hurricanes’ road to the College World Series will start out “I-95N to I-75N, pass through swamp.”
Denied hosting duties as the no. 2 seed, the Canes will instead be heading to Gainesville for their double-elimination regional, where they could face the no. 1-seed Florida Gators in the second round. Again.
But first, the ‘Canes (36-20) will have to see their way past Jacksonville on Friday – a team they have not played but is coming hot on the heels of a conference title. And the Gators (39-20) will have to best Bethune Cookman. But the talk of the locker rooms is the potential Saturday matchup of Miami-Florida: "Every time when it's a Florida/Miami matchup,” said Gators outfielder Avery Barnes, “it's going to be an extremely fiery game with a lot of emotion."
Miami owns an all-time 12-3 record against Florida in the postseason, and is no stranger to Alfred A. McKethan Stadium at Perry Field – they worked the Gators over 8-5, 2-1 and 16-2 in a three-game sweep in late February. But victory might not be so easy this time; Miami went on to falter in the second half of the season, going 11-10 and slipping from no. 2 in the nation to no. 18, while the Gators surged to a top-8 seed handling one of the nation’s toughest schedules.
"We've won in Gainesville, we've lost in Gainesville," UM coach Jim Morris said. "It's definitely going to be a challenge for us."
A challenge, yes, but not a frightening one, according to pitcher Chris Hernandez. "Some people say it's tough to play at Florida, but most of us don't think so. I think we're going to be alright."
What isn't a challenge for the 'Canes at all? Showing up in the postseason. Their selection to the Gainesville Regional increases UM’s record of consecutive post-season appearances to a whopping 37.