Sophomore Evan McKendry rebounded with a dazzling start, and No. 24 Miami handed No. 1 Florida its first loss of the season, 2-0, Sunday afternoon in the series finale at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.
After lasting just 3 1/3 innings last time out against Rutgers, McKendry (1-1) won a pitcher’s duel against Gators righthander Tyler Dyson (1-1) with the most impressive outing of his career to help Miami salvage the series.
For the second start in a row, McKendry struck out eight batters. But unlike his start last Sunday, the Pembroke Pines native worked his way out of any damage to keep the Gators off the scoreboard.
The win helped the Hurricanes avenge a 7-3 loss Friday and a 8-2 loss Saturday.
“It was really a big win for us, needless to say,” UM coach Jim Morris said. “Florida has a really good club. They’re ranked number one in the country, as everyone knows.
“It was a tremendous challenge for us.”
McKendry allowed just two hits and two walks in an efficient 87-pitch performance.
Miami outhit Florida 7-3 on the afternoon, but senior Michael Burns provided all the offense Miami (3-4) needed on a day when McKendry was in control. Burns broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI double and added an RBI single later in the game.
Junior Andrew Cabezas earned his second save of the season by pitching the final three innings in front of 3,388 fans.
With freshman Willy Escala on second base after a double, Burns opened the scoring in the fifth with a double of his own down the left field line, putting Miami ahead 1-0.
Dyson had allowed just three hits prior to Burns’ double. He had eight strikeouts and issued zero walks in an impressive performance.
“He was pitching his butt off,” Burns said. “He was grinding everybody. It was nice to get one on the board.”
Two innings later, Burns chopped an opposite-field single through the right side of the Gators infield to score Freddy Zamora from second and double the Hurricanes’ lead.
Florida’s first hit off McKendry did not come until the fifth, when a miscommunication among the Miami infield on a sky-high pop-up near the pitcher’s resulted in a leadoff double.
“It was a tough play, but there’s not much you can do about that,” McKendry said. “I lost it right away in the sun. It landed directly on the pitcher’s mound, so that’s a tough play for any fielder to make.”
McKendry was unfazed, however, retiring the next three batters in order, including a swinging strikeout of Nick Horvath that ended the inning and preserved the lead.
Florida (7-1) loaded the bases on three walks in Cabezas’ first inning of relief, but the junior induced a flyout to center from Austin Langworthy to end the inning and preserve a slim lead.
Cabezas struck out the side in the ninth to seal the win, helping Miami snap a four-game losing streak.
▪ FIU 12, Grambling 7: Lorenzo Hampton, Jr. and Jose Garcia powered FIU with a pair of home runs and a combined nine RBI as the host Panthers defeated Grambling.
FIU (3-3) took two of three games from Grambling (4-4) in the weekend set.
With FIU ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Hampton launched a two-run home run into the netting above the left-field fence.
It was Hampton’s second home run of the series and capped off a scorching weekend at the plate for the junior. Hampton went 7 for 12 against Tiger pitching with two home runs and seven RBI.