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CORAL GABLES, Fla. – There’s only one way to file Wednesday’s 10-inning, 7-6 victory over St. Thomas, head coach Jim Morris said: under the category of "ugly win."
The sixth-ranked Hurricanes trailed in the ninth, stranded a school-record 22 batters, but still managed to squeak by preseason top-ranked NAIA team St. Thomas at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.
Miami’s chances looked dim late against the Bobcats (7-8), who went ahead 6-4 on a three-run home run in the eighth inning and carried a 6-5 lead into the ninth before a 43-minute rain delay.
Once play resumed, the Hurricanes (4-0) scraped across the tying run on a groundout by junior Johnny Ruiz that looked like a potential double play ball for the Bobcats infield.
With junior Willie Abreu (single) on first and junior Jacob Heyward (fielder’s choice) on third, Ruiz hit a sharp grounder towards the middle of the infield. Bobcats second baseman Michael Centeno fielded it, stepped on the second base bag, but one-hopped the throw to Kendrick Gutierrez, who could not finish the play.
Heyward scored on the miscue, which would have ended the game, to tie it at 6-6.
After a second scoreless inning from Miami freshman Frankie Bartow to start the tenth inning, the Hurricanes put together the game-winning rally, all with two outs.
Back-to-back walks combined with a balk put two Hurricane baserunners in scoring position. After working the count full, Heyward hit a dribbler back to Bobcats pitcher Brandon Valentin that resulted in the winning run.
After a bobble on the wet grass, the throw from Valentin (0-2) to first pulled Gutierrez off the base, leaving Heyward safe at first as redshirt junior Christopher Barr crossed the plate in jubilation.
The win was the first extra-inning variety this season for the Hurricanes, who went 3-2 in extra innings games in 2015. The previous high for runners stranded in a game was 20, set against the Parris Island Marines in 1953.
It was the Hurricanes who struck first Wednesday night, as Miami plated a pair of runs off St. Thomas righthander Alex Sarmiento in the game’s first inning.
Back-to-back singles from Barr and Zack Collins provided the Hurricanes an early scoring opportunity, and after Heyward walked to load the bases, Abreu put Miami up with an RBI single to right.
A sacrifice fly to left from Ruiz, Miami’s top hitter in the team’s opening series against Rutgers, doubled Miami’s lead to 2-0.
The Bobcats responded, however, tagging Hurricanes righthander Jesse Lepore for two runs in the top half of the third on a solo home run from German Morales and an RBI single from Jose Gomez.
Making his first career start, Lepore pitched 4.0 innings and allowed six hits and two runs. He struck out one batter and walked one, and exited after 48 pitches.
Miami regained the lead in the bottom half of the same frame, and Ruiz was once again the catalyst. After a one-out walk by Abreu, Ruiz cracked a single to right that put runners on the corners.
Sarmiento, who was chased in the fourth inning after 76 pitches, threw a wild pitch that scored Abreu from third to give Miami the lead once again.
The Hurricanes padded their advantage to 4-2 on an RBI single from Collins in the fourth.
The Bobcats got a run back in the sixth on an RBI single from Steven Fischer, but freshman Andrew Cabezas – who entered in relief of Lepore in the fifth inning - induced an inning-ending double play from Oscar Rodriguez to avoid any further damage.
Cabezas tossed two scoreless innings before surrendering the go-ahead, three-run home run to Rodriguez, who lifted a slider over the fence in left to give the Bobcats their first lead of the game.
Bartow (1-0) earned his first victory for Miami, needing just 18 pitches to get through his two scoreless innings.
Miami welcomes No. 1 Florida to Mark Light Field for a three-game series beginning Friday, Feb. 26. First pitch for Game 1, slated for broadcast on ESPN3 and WatchESPN, is set for 7 p.m.