The Hurricanes kicked off a huge series against the third ranked and ACC Coastal leading Virginia Cavaliers and won the first game of the series tonight with an all-around team effort.
The game started off with Hurricanes lefty Chris Diaz locked in a pitcher's duel with Cavaliers righty Nathan Kirby. Diaz came into the game with a 4-0 record and with a 2.90 ERA while Kirby was 5-0 and sporting an impressive 0.59 ERA. Through the first five innings both pitchers worked up and down the opposing lineups with relative ease and at a quick pace.
The Cavaliers finally struck first in the top of the sixth with third baseman Kenny Towns (1-4) leading the inning off with a single to center field. Towns would be moved over to second on a sac bunt by Branden Cogswell (1-4), after a Daniel Pinero (1-3) ground out and Mike Papi (0-1) being hit by a pitch there were runners on first and second with two outs for first baseman Nick Howard. Howard (1-4) hit a grounder in the hole that was stopped by an amazing play from Hurricanes second baseman Alex Hernandez however Howard beat out the throw from Hernandez and with heads up base running from Towns it allowed him score to all the way from second on the play making it 1-0 in favor for the Cavaliers.
The lead didn't last long as the Canes responded right back in the bottom of the sixth. The rally started with an infield single on a bunt from left fielder Tyler Palmer (1-4). Palmer would receive some help from the pitcher Kirby as he threw back to back wild pitches that would place Palmer on third base. With Palmer at third, stepped freshman right fielder Willie Abreu (2-4) and Abreu knotted the game right back up on a RBI ground out for Abreu's tenth RBI of the season. The Canes however weren't done in the inning after a Brad Fieger (1-2) single, up came freshman designated hitter Zack Collins. Collins (1-3) came into the game with only a .155 batting average but was second on the team in home runs with three on the year, in the lineup for his power Collins with a huge two run home run over the right field wall giving him eleven RBI's on the year and making it 3-1 for the Canes after six.
After a scoreless seventh things got real interesting and entertaining in the eighth. Cogswell would lead the inning off with a single and then advanced to second on a sac bunt from Daniel Pinero. Chris Diaz would then proceed to let a pitch get away that would hit Mike Papi putting runners on first and second and ending Diaz's day. Diaz would finish the night with seven and one third innings pitched with one run earned on five hits while striking out three. In came freshman Bryan Garcia to face Tim Howard. Howard hit a ball towards the gap between center and right field that looked certain to fall in and probably tie the game at three but the inning and game was saved by a unreal catch by Canes senior center fielder Dale Carey. Carey as Canes fans know is a unreal fielder but this play might just be the best defensive play of his career (see below). Despite the great play by Carey the inning wasn't over yet, Garcia would issue a walk to Joe McCarthy (0-3) to load the bases for the Cavaliers and bring up pinch hitter Matt Thaiss with two outs. On a 2-1 pitch Garcia got Thais (0-1) to pop out to Tyler Palmer ending the scoring threat for the Cavaliers.
In the bottom of the eighth the Canes seemed to have carried over all the momentum for Carey's catch to the plate. Willie Abreu would double to right center of reliever Whit Mayberry. After Fieger was hit by a pitch and Collins reached on a walk bases were loaded for Alex Hernandez. Hernandez (0-3) struck out for the first out, and up came Johnny Ruiz and Ruiz (0-3) would draw a bases loaded walk giving him his first RBI of the year and making it 4-1 for the Canes. The Canes would then put the game out of reach with a RBI double from Brandon Lopez (1-4) off of new reliever Austin Young driving in two more runs. Then a Garrett Kennedy (1-3) sac fly would bring in the fourth run of the inning and seventh of the game putting the score at 7-1. Bryan Garcia would strike out the side in the top of the ninth giving the Canes the first game of a huge series against the Cavaliers. The victory was also monumental for Canes head coach Jim Morris as it gave him his 900th victory as the head man in charge for the Canes, quite an impressive feat.
The Canes go to (13-10, 5-2 ACC) with the win, while the Cavaliers fall to (17-4, 5-2 ACC) with the loss.
Game 2 of the series is set for tomorrow night at 7 PM. For the Cavaliers it will be RHP Josh Sborz (3-1 ,2.55 ERA) going against Hurricanes LHP Andrew Suarez (2-1, 3.55 ERA). The game can be seen on ESPN3 or heard on 90.5 WVUM.
Credit to Chip Brierre for video of the Dale Carey catch.