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Jenkins’ sacrifice fly pushes Miami over Clemson in series sweep

The Hurricanes walked off for the second time this week on Tony Jenkins’ sacrifice fly to right field.

Center fielder Tony Jenkins poses during the Hurricanes’ warmup prior to facing Clemson in the series finale at Mark Light Field on April 18, 2021 (Coral Gables, Fla.)
Credit: Miami Athletics

Hurricanes starting pitcher Jake Garland took the mound on Sunday looking to give Miami its second-straight home series sweep.

The second-year freshman did not garner a team-high fifth win yet appeared sharp through six innings, relinquishing one earned run while striking out six Clemson batters.

Center fielder Tony Jenkins, despite having marked a .111 batting average entering the series, hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score first baseman CJ Kayfus, and Miami (21-11, 13-10 Atlantic Coast Conference) defeated Clemson (15-17, 9-12 ACC) 3-2 to complete the series sweep at Mark Light Field.

“It’s just exciting, getting sweeps is not easy,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “Of course, we’ve had it done to us a few times but we need to obviously run some off ourselves here. The last two games were a little bit different where we opened the games up with much bigger margins, but today winning one-run games those are very, very important. Those are going to be more the type of games you’re going to play later on in tournament time.”

Jenkins’ ninth-inning thriller represented the team’s second walk-off victory for the team in five days, having rallied off a base hit to shallow center field over Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday. Kayfus represented the winning run once again, after singling to center field and shortstop Dominic Pitelli doubled to right field to advance his fellow freshman to third base.

“Pretty much just stay calm and relaxed,” said Jenkins on his approach in the at-bat. “I’ve just been working really hard still in practice and just throughout everything. Keeping that confidence in myself, and just knowing I could get the job done.”

A Gatorade bath soon flooded Jenkins, just as second baseman Anthony Vilar had experienced after his game-clinching hit earlier in the week.

“I just ran into him [Jenkins] on the way up here, and I’m so proud of him because I know it’s tough,” DiMare said. “We’ve all been there struggling, he wants to play, but hasn’t played up to his abilities. But I was so proud of him just being aggressive there, to come up on the first pitch with a pitch he could drive to the outfield, something he hasn’t done a very good job of in being aggressive. In that situation, you’ve got to be aggressive, and he got a good pitch to drive.”

After launching a two-run shot on Saturday, third baseman Yohandy Morales got the Hurricanes on the board 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run over the right field wall.

Clemson left fielder Kier Meredith answered with a two-out RBI single to left-center field in the top of the third, giving the Tigers just their second tie of the three-game set.

Putting UM back ahead 2-1 was leadoff hitter Jordan Lala, as the left fielder hit a solo shot of his own to right field after shortstop Dominic Pitelli and right fielder Gabe Rivera both popped out in the infield to start the third.

“I think everyone just realizes that the wind just was blowing out all weekend,” said DiMare on Miami’s balanced home run efforts, with seven different Hurricanes logging home runs. “I think Friday night it didn’t matter what the wind was doing, the balls were hit so [well] there. Winds are going to blow out, it seems to me that playing on the road a lot of balls fly out more than our ballpark over the last so many years for whatever reason. But this weekend, the wind was blowing out everywhere, so it was nice to see because we do have some guys that can hit the ball and launch it a little bit, and that’s a big part of our offense. We’re not really a stolen-base-threat kind of a team, we’re kind of a swing-the-bat and drive-the-ball team.”

A bases-loaded opportunity awaited UM despite there being two outs in the third, though Christian Del Castillo’s fly-out to left field stopped the Canes’ momentum as Miami still led 2-1.

The Tigers remained a threat in the top of the seventh, tying the pitchers’ duel at two runs apiece on a fielder’s choice from right fielder Dylan Brewer.

Although he relinquished three hits and the earned run to Brewer, Palmquist collected his first win of the season which featured six strikeouts.

“Carson hadn’t thrown because of the scores that we’ve had [this week],” DiMare said. “Of course, that might have affected him a bit today. He wasn’t at his best, but he’s been almost unhuman-like up to this point. But we talked to the team about this weeks and weeks ago that there’s gonna be a day where he’s off, and we gotta make sure we pick him up and we did that today.”

Part of UM’s outlasting performance offensively lied in the three runners advanced, in comparison to Clemson’s one. The Canes also went 4-for-12 with two outs, whereas the Tigers were only 1-of-10 in such situation.

With a renewed four-game winning streak, Miami will face Florida Gulf Coast at Mark Light field once again in its following midweek matchup. Taking the hill will be Jake Smith, who still remains in search of his first win of 2021.

The Canes and Eagles will take the field at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.