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#24 Hurricanes 8, Rutgers 5: Offense Stays Hot

The Hurricanes stayed hot to move to 2-0 on the young season.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Miami vs UC Santa Barbara Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes moved to 2-0 on the season with a win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Saturday. Miami will look to finish off the sweep of the Knights at 1:00 PM Sunday, with Evan Mckendry (4-2, 4.10 ERA) on the mound for the ‘Canes.

The top of the first started poorly for Greg Veliz and the Hurricanes. Veliz allowed the first three batters to reach base, and found himself trying to limit the damage in a bases loaded jam. Veliz then walked Chris Folinusz, and Rutgers took an early 1-0 lead. Veliz managed to recover a bit in the next at-bat, as he struck out Carmen Sclafani and put Miami a double-play away from getting out of the inning. Mike Martinez then worked a full count, but could only knock a very weak grounder off a check swing, which meant the second run couldn’t come across for Rutgers, and now the bases remained loaded, but there were two outs. Veliz then found himself in a duel with Kevin Welsh, as pitch after pitch Welsh stayed alive. Veliz managed to strike out Welsh, and UM escaped the top of the first down only one run.

In the bottom of the first Tony Jenkins worked a marvelous at-bat to draw a leadoff walk, and the Hurricanes were looking to rally. As a result of a terrible jump, Jenkins was caught trying to steal during Willy Escala’s at-bat, and Escala proceeded to strike out on the next pitch, making a rally for Miami difficult. Romy Gonzalez followed with a fly out and we headed to the second with Rutgers holding a 1-0 lead.

Greg Veliz came into the second inning hoping to prevent another rally, and the inning started off well, as Willy Escala made yet another fantastic defensive play to record the first out of the inning. Veliz then walked Dan Digeorgio, and once again was looking to avoid losing control of the inning. In the middle of the next at-bat Greg Veliz threw an extremely wild pitch, allowing Digeorgio to reach third base with only one out. Veliz then hit the batter in the head, fortunately the Rutgers player was ok, and RU had men on the corners with only one out. During Jawuan Harris’ at-bat Miami managed to force Mike Nyisztor into a rundown, but Digeorgio managed to score on the play and Rutgers led 2-0. Despite having two outs, Veliz still couldn’t get comfortable, and he walked Harris. Veliz managed to get the next batter to fly-out, and Rutgers held a 2-0 lead heading to the bottom of the second.

The bottom of the second started well, as Danny Reyes knocked a leadoff double to right-center field. Michael Burns then managed to push Reyes to third on a groundout, and Alex Toral came to the plate looking to drive in Reyes. Toral struck out in the at-bat, and Miami’s final hope rested on the bat of Ray Gil. Unfortunately all Gil could do was hit a soft grounder, and after two, Rutgers led 2-0.

Veliz had a much better top of the third, striking out two batters, he got out of the inning allowing only a single. The Hurricanes headed to the bottom of the third looking to break through and tie the game.

The bottom of the third had a promising start, as Michael Amditis grounded one down the third base line for a leadoff single. Sadly, all Freddy Zamora could manage was a fly-out in his at-bat, and there was one out with the runner still at first. However, Tony Jenkins worked another great at-bat, and drew a walk, giving Miami runners on first and second with one out. Disappointingly, Willy Escala hit a harmless fly-out, and now there were two outs in the inning. Romy Gonzalez then came to the plate, and he managed to work a long at-bat that resulted in a single, giving Miami their first run of the night and making the game 2-1 Rutgers with Danny Reyes coming to the plate. Reyes was immediately hit by a pitch, and the bases were loaded for Michael Burns. Burns managed to club a base hit that drove in both Jenkins and Romy Gonzalez, and this gave Miami a 3-2 lead! Highly-touted freshman Alex Toral then came to the plate, and he saw a pitch and turned on it for a MONSTER homerun that hit the second floor of the parking garage that lies beyond the right field fence. With Miami holding a 6-2 lead Ray Gil came to the plate, and he was hit by a pitch, giving Miami yet another baserunner in the inning. Looking to keep the two out rally going, Michael Amditis came to the plate, and he ripped a double to left field that scored Ray Gil and pushed the lead to 7-2 Miami. After that Freddy Zamora came up to take his at-bat, and he was promptly walked, giving Miami runners at first and second with two outs. The walk ultimately resulted in Rutgers’ starter Serafino Brito being pulled in favor of Kyle Gerace, who would look to get RU out of the inning. Gerace managed to strike out Tony Jenkins to end the third with Miami leading 7-2.

In the top of the fourth Cooper Hammond came into the game to relieve Greg Veliz. Hammond, who appeared only five times last season while recovering from an injury, put together a great inning, forcing Rutgers to go down 1-2-3 and getting a strikeout in the process.

The bottom of the fourth saw the Hurricanes go relatively quietly, Willy Escala struck out, and he was followed by Romy Gonzalez, who quickly flew out. Danny Reyes managed to provide a bit of a spark to the inning by roping a double to left-center field, but Michael Burns struck out and the fourth wrapped up with Miami still holding a 7-2 lead.

Unfortunately for Miami, Cooper Hammond’s second inning wouldn’t be as good as the first. He started by getting a quick out, but eventually allowed a double to Nick Matera. He would get the next batter to strike out, but an RBI double from Carmen Sclafani would end Hammond’s night. Jeremy Cook would come in to replace Hammond, and the freshman would strike out Mike Martinez to record his first collegiate out. With a larger rally avoided, we headed to the bottom of the fifth with Miami leading 7-3.

In the bottom of the fifth the Hurricanes managed to provide some more offense. Alex Toral started the inning with a double to deep left field. Ray Gil then came to the plate, but the freshman couldn’t get the bat on the ball and struck out. Gil was followed by Michael Amditis, who could only manage a groundout, and a promising opportunity seemed to be slipping out of Miami’s hands. However, Freddy Zamora would manage to draw a walk, and with runners on first and second, Tony Jenkins arrived for his at-bat. During the at-bat a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, and Tony Jenkins hit a soft, but bouncing grounder up the third base line. Sclafani came up with the ball only to find that Toral had broke for home and that Jenkins was already nearing first base, instead he chose to try to throw out Freddy Zamora, who was attempting to advance to third, but the throw was too late, and Miami now led 8-3. With two outs Miami couldn’t keep the rally going, as Willy Escala flew-out to end the inning.

In the top of the sixth Jeremy Cook struggled mightily. At the start of the inning he appeared fine, as he quickly forced an out, but two consecutive singles following the leadoff out put Cook in a difficult situation. To make matters worse, Cook walked the next batter, loading the bases with only one out. A wild pitch would allow Rutgers to plate one run, and a sac-fly on the next pitch would plate another. Cook still couldn’t calm down, and another walk resulted in the inevitable call to the bullpen, which resulted in the first appearance of standout Frankie Bartow. Bartow would get Miami out of the jam, striking out the first batter he faced this season. By the time the damage was done, Rutgers had cut the lead to 8-5 Miami.

The bottom of the sixth started with a Romy Gonzalez fly-out, and the next batter in the order, Danny Reyes, looked to have the same fate when he hit a shallow pop-up to right field. Reyes was lucky however, because none of the Rutgers’ fielders called the ball, and it dropped in between them, which allowed Reyes to reach second. Michael Burns would arrive at the plate looking to do some damage, but he could only muster a soft-liner to centerfield. Despite the out, Rutgers still made a call to the bullpen for sophomore Tevin Murray. Murray immediately struggled, and during Alex Toral’s at-bat a wild pitch allowed Danny Reyes to reach third. Toral then settled for a walk, and Murray found his appearance already over, as he was replaced by Ryan Wares. Alex Toral managed a steal of second during Ray Gil’s at-bat, but Gil couldn’t plate either Reyes or Toral as Ryan Wares struck him out to let Rutgers escape the jam.

In the top of the seventh Rutgers began to feel the desperation of their situation. Down by three runs and facing Miami’s best bullpen arms, it seemed as if Rutgers desperately needed a rally. Frankie Bartow would shut them down without even breaking a sweat though. Rutgers couldn’t find an answer for the junior right hander and fell 1-2-3, we headed to the bottom of the seventh with Miami still holding on to the 8-5 lead.

Miami would suffer the same fate as the Scarlet Knights in the bottom of the seventh. Michael Amditis, Freddy Zamora, and Tony Jenkins were all quickly sat down by the Rutgers pitching staff, and the Knights looked to rally in the top of the eighth.

The top of the eighth wouldn’t go to plan for Bartow. The set-up man managed a quick out, but two consecutive singles ended his night. Andrew Cabezas took the mound, and got two outs to prevent any damage in the half inning. The Knights went back to their dugout trying to find an answer for the junior righty, and the Hurricanes retained the three run lead.

The bottom of the eighth saw Miami once again go quickly, A 1-2-3 inning for the ‘Canes meant that Cabezas would have just the three runs to work with, and that he would have his first save opportunity in the young season.

Cabezas wasn’t as dominant in the top of the ninth. He allowed two hits, but the promising closer showed maturity and worked out of the jam. The game ended with a harmless fly-out to right-field, and Miami won the game 8-5 and clinched the series win.

This game showed that the Hurricanes seem to have overcome the problems of last season. Miami once again put together another solid offensive performance, and the pitching staff handled tough situations well. I liked that Jim Morris left Jeremy Cook in to solve his own problems, giving young pitchers experience like that will become extremely valuable later in the season, as the opponents grow more and more difficult. Danny Reyes has been a revelation at the plate, and while his current success isn’t sustainable, it still remains promising for the rest of the season. It was also nice to see Alex Toral have a great game. The highly-touted freshman managed to get his first collegiate homerun and hit simultaneously, and he overall had a much better night at the plate as compared to the first game against Rutgers.

Miami will hope to complete the sweep on Sunday at 1:00 PM, Evan Mckendry (4-2, 4.10 ERA) will be the pitcher for the ‘Canes.

Game Info

Winning Pitcher: Cooper Hammond (1-0, 1.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 2 K)

Losing Pitcher: Serafino Brito (0-1, 2.2 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 3 BB, 2 K)

Save: Andrew Cabezas (1)

Box Score:

Next Game

Rutgers vs Miami; Game 3

Date & Time: Sunday, February 18, 1:00 PM

Miami Starter: Evan McKendry (4-2, 4.10 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: 790 The Ticket