A hapless performance against in-state rival Florida State over the weekend left the Miami Hurricanes scrambling for answers in their subsequent midweek matchup against Florida Atlantic.
Miami (10-7), which had slipped to No. 18 in the national rankings, appeared as a different ball club offensively on Tuesday night in Boca Raton, Florida. The team exploded for a season-best 17 hits, totaling 14 runs behind first baseman Alex Toral’s six RBI – a new career-high – in a 14-8 win over FAU (10-9).
“We had a team meeting with all the guys and the coaches at our field today,” Toral said. “I think a lot of guys let a lot of things off their chest that they needed to, and it helped us play like the team that we are supposed to be and the team that we’re going to be. Coming out here and winning this game definitely means a lot to us, especially after the tough weekend we had.”
An eight-run onslaught in the second inning established the Canes a comfortable 12-0 advantage, after Toral’s first grand slam on the season.
“It’s such a crazy thing that I can’t even explain it,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said on the downpour of runs in the early innings. “Toral gets the grand slam in the first inning and you could tell it put guys more at ease and relaxed. We’d been waiting all weekend to get something going and couldn’t do it and then came out here and it was great to see our offense come out with the most hits on the season today.”
FAU graduate transfer TJ Stewart (0-3) ended up leaving the ball game with a right forearm injury, totaling one inning in his second start of the year versus Miami. The right-hander, named as the top pitcher in the MAAC at Manhattan last season, remained responsible for UM’s first five runs, nonetheless.
Everything would only get worse for the Owls after Stewart’s abrupt exit, as reliever Adrien Reese did not even complete the second frame. Leadoff hitter Jordan Lala recorded an extra base hit, while catcher Adrian Del Castillo and designated hitter Raymond Gil each logged RBI to quickly hand Reese seven earned runs.
Second baseman Anthony Vilar blasted a home run of his own over the right-field fence to keep the Canes’ attack going at the plate in the third frame, though the Owls began to give starter Jake Garland (3-1) problems. Catcher Nicholas Toney blasted a 3-run home run to help his team achieve a 4-run inning.
Garland, who pitched dominantly in his previous outing, began to lose composure in the fifth inning after a 15-2 road victory over Florida Gulf Coast last Wednesday. FAU third baseman B.J. Murray doubled down the left field line, scoring Toney once more to slice the UM lead to 14-8.
Right-handed reliever Jordan Dubberly replaced the freshman for the remainder of the contest. The St. John’s River State transfer registered four strikeouts in the late innings, garnering his first save as a Hurricane having held the Owls to only one unearned run in the ninth inning.
“It was really good to get back out there and have a good outing,” Dubberly said. “I thought I had a really good day locating the ball with all three of my pitches.”
After relinquishing three earned runs to Florida State in his previous performance, the redshirt sophomore provided the Miami bullpen with more of a needed spark in the much-needed win.
“He’s been getting better and better,” DiMare said. “Each time you could just tell his velocity tick a little higher and just all his overall command of his pitches gets just a little bit better.”
Miami will take on Virginia in another weekend road series starting Friday, with freshman right-handed pitcher Alejandro Rosario likely starting.
The Canes and the Cavaliers will take the field in Charlottesville, Virginia at 4 p.m.