Pitching Impresses as Miami Baseball Picks Up 13th Straight

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Salas earns win, middle relief solid against Owls.

Courtesy UM

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- No. 11 Miami extended the nation's longest winning streak to 13 consecutive games Wednesday night, toppling visiting FAU 2-1 at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.

With its fifth straight home victory, Miami improved to 7-3 in its last 10 games against the Owls. The winning streak is Miami's longest since a 14-game stretch in 2008, as the Hurricanes avenged a 5-2 loss to FAU in the first game of the season series back on Feb. 19.

"With our streak, every win is a big win because it's great to continue that," head coach Jim Morris said. "Our pitchers pitched very well...everyone out of the bullpen threw well. You have to credit our pitching staff."

Senior Javi Salas made his second consecutive midweek start for the Hurricanes (26-12), who have not lost a game since March 24. The Coral Gables native threw five clean innings, allowing just four hits with four strikeouts. He struck out the side in his final inning of work, lowering his season ERA to 2.70.

Despite keeping the Owls off the scoreboard, Salas credited his defense - which turned three double plays on the night - with the win.

"I honestly didn't have very good stuff," Salas said. "I was battling the whole night with myself. I didn't have much control. I was very fortunate to get some double play balls. My defense played great behind me - that's what I relied on today."

Lefthander Thomas Woodrey (two innings), righthander Cooper Hammond (one inning) and closer Bryan Garcia (one inning) pitched the night's final four frames. Despite getting tagged for a run in the ninth, Garcia picked up his ACC-leading 11th save of the season in the victory.

"The guy who was most impressive to me was Woodrey in middle relief," Morris said. "He was very dominant for two innings."

Miami struck first against FAU starter Sean Labsan (0-1), as a two-out double from freshman Johnny Ruiz sent Miami to a 2-0 lead in the second inning.

The hit was one of just four on the night for the Hurricanes, who were unable to generate much offense off Owls pitching.

"Tonight we struggled a little bit, but we've been getting big hits when we needed to," Ruiz said. "I have to thank my teammates for getting on base and putting me in the situation to be able to drive them in."

With freshman Sebastian Diaz (single) on second and senior Alex Hernandez (walk) on first, Ruiz drove a 2-2 pitch from Labsan over the outstretched glove of a leaping CJ Chatham at third and into the leftfield corner. Both runners scored on the hit, as Miami chased Labsan after 36 pitches and just 1.2 innings of work.

"I fell behind, [the umpire] called a couple of strikes inside," Ruiz said. "The whole at bat, I knew they were trying to work in and in, so I finally got a pitch that was more over the plate and I was able to put a good swing over third base."

Ruiz extended his hitting streak to a career-best four consecutive games with the double.

For the second consecutive start, Salas (3-3) delivered five scoreless innings for the Hurricanes. After an efficient outing last Wednesday night at UCF, Salas allowed just four hits - all singles - with four strikeouts. He departed after 75 pitches, 49 of which went for strikes.

"It's part of the game - you're not always going to have your best stuff out there," Salas said. "You have to grind, and understand that you have nine guys behind you who are playing good defense."

Despite Miami's offense leaving nine runners on base, Woodrey and Hammond brought Miami to the ninth with a two-run lead over the Owls (19-17). Garcia was tagged for three hits in the final inning, including an RBI single from Jose Bonilla, but struck out Esteban Puerto for the final out of the game.

The punchout for Garcia finished off an impressive night for Miami pitchers, who struck out nine batters and walked zero.

"We're all very loose, we're all very confident, and we feel like we're rounding out into shape," Salas said.

Six of Miami's wins over the 13-game streak have come by just one run.

"We've been playing with a lot of confidence," Ruiz said. "Those close games in the beginning of the year, we were struggling to get a big hit or close things out. Now we've been doing that."

No. 11 Miami returns to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field Saturday night with a matchup against visiting Notre Dame. First pitch for the opener, slated for broadcast on ESPN3, is set for 7 p.m.

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