CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Fourth-ranked Miami capped its homestand on a high note Thursday night with a 5-2 win over No. 19 FAU at Mark Light Field.
In a game that was postponed a day due to inclement weather, the Hurricanes received a dominant start from sophomore righthander Jesse Lepore to extend their winning streak to four straight.
Lepore tied a career-long with seven innings and surrendered just four hits. He struck out six batters – just one shy of his career-high - and walked just one to improve his personal record to 6-0.
“The tone is set with pitching, and Lepore had his best outing since he has been at Miami, I felt like,” head coach Jim Morris said. “He pitched very, very well. We played good defense again and we got some big hits.”
Lepore, who struggled with command against the same Owls team last time out in a 4-3 loss, helped Miami even the season series with FAU.
“The whole team approach was coming in with a chip on our shoulder,” Lepore said. “I know I did. I had a lot of improvement from my last start [against FAU].”
Miami (34-8) got off to a quick start in the first, recording five hits off FAU righthander David McKay to jump ahead 3-0.
Singles from Carl Chester and Christopher Barr put runners on the corners for Brandon Lopez, who connected on a one-out RBI single to right field to open the scoring. Johnny Ruiz doubled Miami’s lead one pitch later on a slapped basehit to left, while a single from Jacob Heyward loaded the bases.
Willie Abreu was then hit by a pitch from McKay on a 2-2 count, forcing in a run to make it 3-0 in favor of the Hurricanes.
Barr extended his hitting streak to nine games with his first-inning bunt single, while Lopez successfully reached base for the 26th straight game.
“As of late, we’ve been getting the offense going with bunts,” Lopez said. “We’ve been able to put down good bunts and get on base, and we’ve been able to get clutch hits lately.”
McKay (2-4) would settle down after the difficult start, retiring a string of 11 consecutive batters to end his outing after six innings.
He struck out four batters, yielded three earned runs and departed after 104 pitches with FAU trailing 3-2.
Lepore was sharp once again for the Hurricanes, retiring nine in a row in the early innings before a solo home run from FAU’s CJ Chatham put the visitors on the board in the fourth. The Owls (30-13) would scrape another run across in the fifth on a sacrifice fly to right from Brett Lashley, as Abreu’s throw to home plate was just slightly off-line.
Lepore exited after 91 pitches having allowed just four hits and one walk. The tall righthander has yet to allow more than two runs in any start this season.
Leading 3-2 in the seventh, the Hurricanes added two late insurance runs to help seal the win. Miami loaded the bases in the frame on walks from Chester, Collins (intentional) and Lopez, and Ruiz came up with another big hit- an RBI single through the rightside – to push the lead to 4-2.
The RBI pushed Ruiz’ total to a team-high 43.
Heyward then beat a throw from second baseman Stephen Kerr on a potential inning-ending double play to boost Miami’s lead to 5-2.
“Not trying to do too much, go with the pitch,” Lopez said of the team’s mentality at the plate. “Take each at bat as what they give you.”
Lopez was one of three Hurricanes to take part in commencement ceremonies earlier in the afternoon, joining Barr and Thomas Woodrey.
“I was focused on graduation [earlier], but when I got here, my mind was focused on baseball,” Lopez said. “It gets you a little more happy playing baseball that day, definitely.”
Freshman Frankie Bartow pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Bryan Garcia earned his ACC-leading 11th save of the season with a clean ninth to clinch the victory.
Morris said the team did not let the unique circumstances – playing on a Thursday or the three players who arrived less than an hour before first pitch due to graduation – affect its mentality.
“It was a pretty good team effort that we played with tonight. FAU has a very good club, and we played well,” Morris said.
The Hurricanes travel to Atlanta for a weekend ACC series against host Georgia Tech beginning Saturday, May 7. First pitch for the series opener, slated for broadcast on WVUM 90.5 FM, is set for 7 p.m.