ACC Tourney: Miami Knocks Off Virginia, 9-5

Miami Hurricanes’ bats were cold for roughly seven innings in Wednesday’s ACC Tournament showdown against the Virginia Cavaliers, but with everything on the line, a furious rally in the bottom of the eighth was a difference-maker.

Trailing 5-2 with one out, the Canes rattled off seven runs—fueled by a two-RBI single from David Thompson and a three-run shot from Garrett Kennedy—en route to the eventual, 9-5 victory over the Cavaliers.

The comeback win made it 13-in-a-row for Miami, who will face North Carolina State on Friday night and Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon, while looking to punch its ticket to Sunday’s conference title game, representing Pool B.

Bats caught fire late and on paper, just another ho-hum, four-run takedown—though it was anything but the case. Miami got on the board early, picking up a run in the bottom of the first.

George Iskenderian ripped a two-out single between short and third, eventually reaching second when a pick-off attempt went awry. From there, a Zack Collins single brought Iskenderian home and the Canes led, 1-0.

Three quiet innings followed on both sides, with Thomas Woodrey on the mound for Miami and Virginia throwing ace Connor Jones.

The Canes made some noise in the bottom of the fifth, starting with Willie Bare working the count and drawing a walk. Brandon Lopez reached on an error, moving Abreu to third.

With men at the corners Jacob Heyward struck out with a 2-2 count, but Ricky Eusebio hit a shot to left-center, allowing Abreu to tag up and the Canes led, 2-0—the inning abruptly ending when Lopez was caught on a delayed steal.

Virginia got on the board in the top of the sixth and took the lead by way of a three-run shot by Kenny Towns, seemingly shifting all the momentum the Cavaliers’ way.

Woodley lasted 5.2 innings, giving up three hits, three runs and striking out two, while Jones was strong for 7.1 innings, keeping the Canes in check until the top of the eighth—eventually giving up four hits, four runs and striking out seven.

Jones was pulled with the Cavaliers on top, 5-2 with two on and one out, but his relievers couldn’t bail him out.

Prior to that, Virginia’s offense picked up two in the seventh, after a missed opportunity in the sixth, courtesy of a diving grab by Eusebio—which went to the replay booth and was confirmed, ending the inning and saving a run.

With bases loaded an inning later, Joe McCarthy ripped a bases-loaded, 2-2, two-out Michael Mediavilla pitch down the right field line, scoring two and putting the heat on the Canes who were clearly running out of time.

Miami went three up/three down in the bottom of the seventh, but in the eighth came alive. The Canes had been 0-for-17 before the rally started and UM came alive.

Lopez opened with a single and Eusebio drew a walk, which sparked the pitching change and brought in Kevin Doherty, who lasted one batter when Christopher Barr ripped a one-out single, making it a 5-3 ball game, with runners on the corners.

Alec Bettinger replaced Doherty and appeared to force Iskenderian into a double play ball; a dribbler muffed by the second baseman, bringing in another run.

Collins drew a walk to load the bases, Thompson blooped a two-strike single into left, scoring two and set the stage for Kennedy’s blast and a much-needed, seven-run inning for Miami.

Bryan Garcia—who came on in the top of the eight—moved Virginia down with relative ease in the top of the ninth and the, 9-5 opening-round victory was in the books.

Where this team goes from here, time will tell—but if big things are on the horizon, let this comeback victory serve as the ultimate reminder of what can be achieved, even in a small amount of time.

Ice cold bats for seven innings, followed by a seven-run inning in crunch time. This team didn’t get here by accident and has to trust itself, even in dire moments.

To that point, fans of this team need to take a social media hiatus during the actual game, saving commentary for after, because the vitriol was embarrassing in the wake of how things played out.

Message boards looked more like suicide hotlines, with folks chastising the team, the coaching staff and the inability to rise to the occasion in the postseason, despite over one-third of the actual contest remaining.

Virginia was a banged-up squad this season and didn’t live up to expectations, but after scoring 11 runs against Georgia Tech in the play-in game—mercy rule in effect—anyone who thought Miami was going to have a cakewalk today was sorely misguided.

The Cavaliers have become a solid program over the past few seasons, reaching Omaha with a frequency that used to be the norm for Miami.

A three-seed last year, Virginia was the College World Series runner-up—49-14 pre-Omaha under head coach Brian O’Connor—taking out Ole Miss (twice) and TCU, before dropping 2-of-3 one-run games to Vanderbilt for the title.

The Cavaliers are a battle-tested postseason bunch these days, while the Hurricanes are working to become that type of program again—taking a huge step forward on Wednesday afternoon in Durham.

Miami gets Thursday to exhale and regroup before taking on North Carolina State at 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday night. Earlier in the day, it’s Virginia and Notre Dame going toe-to-toe in Pool B at 11:00 a.m ET.

Saturday’s schedule pits Miami versus Notre Dame in the early game—3:00 p.m. ET—followed by Virginia and North Carolina State at 7:00 p.m.

The Hurricanes control their destiny and got that inaugural post-season win out of the way, keeping the faith all the way down to the final outs.

Moving forward, may this fan base do the same, or it’s going to be a long couple of weeks.