CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Third-ranked Miami came from behind to finish off another sweep Sunday at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, as the Hurricanes topped ninth-ranked North Carolina 7-4 in the series finale.
The Hurricanes (23-4, 10-2 ACC), who entered the weekend in first place in the ACC Coastal Division, widened their lead in the standings with their second consecutive conference sweep and fourth sweep overall.
“It was a huge weekend, and a big day for us of course. North Carolina is a very talented team...we played very well all weekend,” head coach Jim Morris said. “Our guys fought back when they got behind.”
The win was Miami’s 18th in its last 20 outings.
Morris called the team’s recent run of play “outstanding.”
“It’s a very positive thing to know that our guys keep battling against these types of [pitchers],” Morris said.
Junior lefthander Danny Garcia lasted 3.2 innings, exiting with the bases loaded in the fourth after struggling with command. He struck out three batters but walked four, and allowed six hits.
But Miami’s bullpen turned in 5.1 strong innings in relief, jumpstarted by a bases-loaded, inning-ending groundout induced by redshirt freshmen Keven Pimentel in the fourth to maintain a manageable 3-0 deficit.
Four Hurricanes relievers combined to allow just five hits and one run with six strikeouts and no walks after Garcia departed in the fourth.
Trailing in the middle innings, Miami struck for five runs in the fifth to take the lead and chase Tar Heels starter Jason Morgan.
The Hurricanes loaded the bases with no outs on walks from Randy Batista and Christopher Barr sandwiched around a single from Carl Chester.
Tar Heels ace reliever AJ Bogucki entered and promptly recorded a strikeout of Zack Collins. But a two-RBI double from junior Jacob Heyward to center, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly from junior Johnny Ruiz put Miami ahead 4-3.
Heyward, who struck out with the bases loaded two innings prior, made up for it with a line drive over the head of centerfielder Tyler Ramirez.
“I just had to make a few adjustments in my swing, make it a little bit shorter…you can’t do anything with strikeouts,” Heyward said. “Just trying to see the ball, hit it and put it in play.”
Bogucki (2-1) then walked senior Brandon Lopez before being removed, and junior Willie Abreu added to the scoring with an RBI single off reliever Brett Daniels to make it 5-3.
Morgan walked four batters and was charged with three runs in 4.0+ innings – his shortest start of the season.
Chester reached base five times on three hits, one walk and a North Carolina error.
“Trying to get on base for my team again,” he said about his approach. “I felt good at the plate, taking some pitches, seeing some pitches and putting the ball in play.”
Heyward said the resiliency of the Hurricanes, who were trailing in every single game of the series, has been a long time in the making.
“We’ve been through a lot. I think being in the College World Series last year helped us a lot – growing as a team mentally, and being strong together,” Heyward said. “This is a great year. We’re having fun.”
After entering the game with his team trailing 3-0, freshman Andrew Cabezas continued his recent dominance on the mound with 2.1 scoreless innings. He struck out four batters and allowed just two hits.
The Tar Heels (20-7, 6-6 ACC) struck for a run in the eighth on an RBI double by Brian Miller up the third baseline to cut Miami’s lead to 5-4, but junior Bryan Garcia entered and recorded the final out of the eighth on a first-pitch flyout.
Miami added two insurance runs in the eighth on a bases-loaded walk drawn by Collins and a passed ball that scored Chester from third base.
Garcia went on to pitch a scoreless ninth inning for his ACC-leading ninth save of the season.
Miami travels to Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla., to take on FGCU on Tuesday, April 5. First pitch for the contest is slated for 6:30 p.m.