Nearly 100 Major League Baseball scouts came to Gainesville last weekend to watch 6-7, 230-pound left-handed Florida ace A.J. Puk throw his 97-mph fastball in the Gators’ opening series.
Add dozens more on Saturday night at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables, where Puk — the projected No. 1 draft pick — started against the Miami Hurricanes.
Notch one for the sixth-ranked Hurricanes, who knocked Puk out of the game in only 2 2/3 innings and snapped a four-game losing streak to the top-ranked Gators with a 5-3 win.
“It’s a big win for us, no question,’’ UM coach Jim Morris said. “Florida has got an outstanding club. It was a big challenge for us. We knew the scouting report on the pitcher coming in and saw him pitch last year against us. He is a projected very, very high draft pick in the first round. I’m proud of our guys the way they played. They played hard and we were able to scrape a few runs off him.
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“The only thing that would be bigger would be if we could win [Sunday] and win the series.’’
Puk allowed three runs — two earned — on five hits. He struck out five.
The Atlantic Coast Conference Digital Network reported that the series between the in-state rivals featured 10 percent of Baseball America’s top 100 prospects. And one of those, Zack Collins, delivered for the scouts and the capacity crowd of 4,999.
Collins, No. 29 on that Baseball America list, drove home four runs on two singles through the right side with bases loaded in the third and fourth innings to give Miami a 5-1 lead en route to the victory.
“My job was to drive in runs,’’ Collins said, “and fortunately I had bases loaded in two at-bats [Saturday]. We were definitely trying to get back at them more [Saturday night], and we’re going to do the same [Sunday]. We’re looking to win the series obviously this year and send them back home with a loss.”
Also contributing in a big way was 6-5, 225-pound lefty Michael Mediavilla, who allowed one earned run on two hits and four walks in his second career start. Mediavilla, a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American reliever last season, threw 98 pitches in five innings. He was replaced by freshman Frankie Bartow.
Bartow pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing one run in the eighth on back-to-back doubles by JJ Schwarz and Peter Alonso and a groundout RBI, before he was replaced by sidewinder Cooper Hammond.
Hammond lasted until he gave up a two-out double and was replaced by closer Bryan Garcia in the ninth. Garcia then allowed a single to Buddy Reed to make it 5-3, but struck out final batter Schwarz.
The Gators (6-1) scored their first run in the third inning on a single to right by Reed, stolen base and RBI-single by Schwarz.
Right-handed freshman Brady Singer replaced Puk with two outs in the third. He allowed two earned runs on two hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings.
With an overflow of fans watching from the Ponce de Leon garage beyond right field, Miami (5-1) opened the scoring in the second on an infield single by Jacob Heyward, a single by Willie Abreu and an RBI double by Johnny Ruiz. Abreu was thrown out at home on the play.
The final game of the weekend series begins at 1 p.m. Sunday, when UM left-handed junior Danny Garcia (1-0, 0.00 ERA) faces UF right-handed sophomore Alex Faedo (1-0, 1.59).