CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- No. 4 Miami came out on the wrong end of a back-and-forth matchup with Alabama State Saturday night, dropping game two of its weekend series with the Hornets by a final score of 6-5.
Miami fell behind 3-0 in the second inning, tied the game 3-3 in the sixth, fell behind by two runs in the seventh and then came back to tie it 5-5 in the home half of the same frame. But Alabama State plated a run off freshman Bryan Garcia in the eighth on a fielding error, and then held on in the ninth to set up a rubber match to be played Sunday at 1 p.m.
"It's a tough loss," head coach Jim Morris said. "All the things we've been doing for the last month to win all these games, we did the opposite tonight. We weren't fundamentally sound and we didn't execute."
Miami made uncharacteristic defensive miscues in the defeat, which was just the second for Miami in its past 22 games. The Hurricanes committed four errors in the field behind redshirt sophomore Andrew Suarez, the most since a loss to UCF on March 18.
"It's frustrating, but they're not trying to make errors," Suarez said. "I had to just keep pitching and just battling for my team."
The Hornets struck first off Suarez, tagging the southpaw for three runs in the second inning. Despite getting the first two outs of the frame in quick succession, Suarez allowed a single to Branden Castro up the middle - Alabama State's first hit of the night - to open the rally.
Two more bloop singles later, the Hornets had runners on the corners and a 1-0 lead. A two-out double from leadoff hitter Richard Amion just cleared the outstretched glove of freshman Laz Rivera at third, scoring both runners to give the Hornets a 3-0 advantage.
Suarez induced a groundout from Cesar Rivera to avoid any further damage in front of a crowd of 3,026.
"They're very aggressive, and they know I liked to throw my fastball a lot," Suarez said. "They were jumping on the first pitch and getting good hits."
After struggling to generate much offense off Hornets righthander Joseph Camaco for the first half of the night, Miami utilized a three-run rally in the sixth to tie the game 3-3. Freshman Zack Collins reached base on his third walk of the night to start the action, and a double from fellow freshman Willie Abreu that dropped in after Rivera overran the ball in left put runners on second and third.
Sophomore Ricky Eusebio, starting his sixth straight game in centerfield, came through with an RBI single to the shortstop that plated Collins from third, putting Miami (33-14) on the scoreboard and cutting the deficit to 3-1. Senior Alex Hernandez, who recorded a career-high four RBI in Friday's game one victory, then belted a Camacho offering into deep leftfield for an RBI double to make it 3-2.
With the speedy Eusebio advancing to third on the hit, sophomore Brandon Lopez then capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game up 3-3.
"We did battle back twice when we got down, and that was a good thing," Morris said. "To their credit, we kept doing that."
Collins reached base successfully for the 18th straight game after he was issued a two-out walk by Camacho in the first. He ended the night 0-for-2 with a career-high three walks.
Alabama State (34-18) responded immediately, plating two unearned runs off Suarez in the top half of the seventh. A one-out walk and an error charged to Hernandez on a shallow pop-up in right put two runners on base, and a groundout advanced both runners into scoring position. A tough bounce on an infield single from Waldyvan Estrada towards Lopez at shortstop scored both runners, making it 5-3.
But the Hurricanes staged an impressive sequence of their own, capped by a two-RBI single from Abreu up the middle that tied the game 5-5. Camacho hit senior Dale Carey with a pitch then walked Tyler Palmer before being pulled in favor of reliever Normando Valentin after 6.1 impressive innings.
After striking out Collins, Valentin (4-0) had his 3-1 pitch ripped right back towards him by Abreu, and both runners scored easily on the play to tie the game.
“It felt great to bring my team back into the game, but it’s a team effort,” Abreu said.
Garcia (5-3) allowed a run in the eighth on an error charged to first baseman Brad Fieger. After surrendering a double to Emmanuel Marrero, Garcia saw a hard-hit grounder from Branden Castro make its way past Fieger to plate Marrero for the decisive run.
“We made a few mistakes that hurt us early on in the ballgame, and also late,” Abreu said. “We have to continue to play solid baseball like we’ve been doing for this last half of the season, and we’re going to be okay.”
The Hurricanes return to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field for their series finale against Alabama State on Sunday. First pitch for the contest, slated for broadcast on WVUM 90.5 FM, is set for 1 p.m.