by Brian Goins
After splitting the first two games of the series, No. 4 Miami regrouped strong in their rubber match against Alabama State with a 6-3 victory to capture their sixth straight series win led by solid pitching and capitalized scoring, Sunday afternoon.
The Hurricanes fell behind 3-0 for the second game in the row, allowing the Hornets to string together two hits, a walk, and one costly error in the 4th inning. With runners on second and third and one out, lefthander Bryan Radziewski fielded a chopped grounder to the mound by diving and releasing an off-balanced throw, trying to make a play at the plate. Catcher Garrett Kennedy couldn't hold on to tag the runner, allowing the ball to pass all the way to the backstop while two runs scored. The Hornets were able to top off one extra score in their rally, driving in their third and last run of the game before Radziewski pulled himself out of the jam.
"They had a squeeze and I should have known better not to go home," said Radziewski. "I should have gone to first - it would have saved a lot of trouble. That's completely on me."
The Hurricanes bats would come alive during their next plate appearance, pulling off four of their six unanswered runs off Alabama State pitcher Tyler Howe (5-1 , 2.79 ERA) in the same frame. Howe, who was in rhythm through three innings, put himself in a hole in the fourth following back-to-back walks to Willie Abreu and Ricky Eusebio to start the inning (5 BB's last 8 batters). Miami would capitalize with a runner in scoring position after failing to leave the bases loaded for freshman phenom Zach Collins the inning prior.
This time, shortstop sophomore Brandon Lopez came through with a stand-up double driving in both Abreu and Eusebio to bring Miami within a run. Laz Rivera would follow to foul off four straight pitches before getting hit by a pitch. And Kennedy would tie the game up at 3-3 with an RBI single, bringing home Lopez from second and taking Howe out of the game after only 3.1 innings of work.
Hornets reliever, Hunter McIntosh, would come in an extended relief role, sharing his own struggles, too. The Hurricanes took their first lead of the game with Dale Carey hitting what was a routine fly ball to centerfield that popped out of the glove of Alabama State's Richard Amion. From then on, the Hurricanes would take control of the game.
Radziewski (5-2, 3.65 ERA) would recover throwing a sharp 6 1/3 innings, striking out seven, while allowing seven hits and only two earned runs -- now sitting third in the ACC in strikeouts with 86 K's and 10th all-time in the Hurricanes record books with 308. Meanwhile, Collins would extend his on-base streak for a 20th consecutive game in the sixth, where Miami tagged on two more insurance runs off an RBI double from Tyler Palmer and a fielder's choice RBI by Abreu.
Freshman sidearmer, Cooper Hammond, came in for relief in the 7th with the tying run on-plate and held on, getting the Hornets to ground-out to first and chase a breaking ball for the third out. Hammond would go on to the pitch through the ninth, saving an appearance from closer Bryan Garcia, totaling 2.2 innings, zero hits, and four strikeouts for the save.
Miami, now winners of 21 of their last 23, will host Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday night before heading up to Durham, NC on Friday to face Duke who are on a tear of their own right now - winning their last nine straight, sitting third in the ACC Coastal (28-17, 15-9). Miami (19-5 in ACC play) continues to hold a one-game lead for first place in the ACC Coastal ahead of No.1 Virginia (18-5 in ACC play) with seven games remaining until ACC Regionals begin on May 20.