An 8-0 victory was a stellar way to kick off a weekend series against No. 3 North Carolina, but would the rout prove to be a fluke or could the thirteenth-ranked Canes use the upset as a stepping stone and turnaround?
In the end, UM pulled off the sweep and hopefully found the mojo needed to make a legitimate run as the 2012 season builds towards the post-season. After getting smoked in back-to-back regionals in Gainesville, an obvious goal for the Canes is to be home in June and taking three from the Tar Heels could go a long way in the rankings.
Miami followed up Friday’s dominating performance with a hard-fought, extra-innings battle on Saturday. After falling behind 2-0 in the first inning, the game remained scoreless until the bottom of the sixth, where the Canes picked up one.
Brad Feiger started the inning with a walk, with Chantz Mack attempting a bunt. A fielding error put Mack on first and moved Feiger to third. Esteban Tresgallo popped out to left, but scored Feiger. In the seventh, Miami finally took the lead.
Tyler Palmer singled through the left and Dale Carey reached on a fielder’s choice with a sacrifice bunt. Another fielding error put a Cane on base with a would-be routine out and moved Palmer to second.
A pitching change was prompted after Peter O’Brien walked and loaded the bases, moving Carey to second and Palmer to third. From there, a Feiger base hit plated Palmer and a ground-out from Mack sent Carey home.
Up 3-2 entering the top of the ninth, A.J. Salcines was pulled for E.J. Encinosa after giving up a hit and a walk. After forcing two outs, a passed ball wound up scoring Jacob Stallings, tying the game, 3-3, with Miami unable to get anything done in the bottom of the ninth.
The teams would play five more innings, reaching the bottom of the fourteenth before lead-off batter Tresgallo sent a 1-1 pitch over the left field wall for the 4-3 victory, clinching the series.
Sunday proved that there was no rest for the weary. Even with the series in hand, Miami came out and dominated en route to a 4-0 victory. Steven Ewing took the mound, earning his fourth win of the season, though he gave up a career-high seven walks. Ewing still struck out a season-high nine batters in six innings of work and managed to work his way out of every jam he put himself into with the untimely walks.
The Canes got on the board in the bottom of the second. Back-to-back walks to Mack and Tresgallo put men on first and second and Stephen Perez reached on a throwing error, loading the bases. Jarred Mederos drew a walk, which scored Mack.
In the bottom of the third, Palmer singled to left and advanced to second on a balk. A Carey ground-out moved Palmer to third and scored after O’Brien reached first on a field error in right.
Miami picked up two more in the seventh, and mowed through three North Carolina pitches in the process. After a Garrett Kennedy ground out, Palmer walked and stole second. Carey then drew a walk, prompting the second pitcher change of the inning. O’Brien then singed up the middle, moving Carey to third after a fielding error and scoring Palmer. After another pitching change, Feiger then grounded out, moving O’Brien to second and scoring Carey.
Both the Canes and Tar Heels recorded five hits a piece on Sunday, but Miami was the only squad able to turn the hits into runs, in many cases, due to mental errors by North Carolina.
The three-game sweep moved the Canes to 24-8 on the season and 11-4 in the ACC. It should also move UM up in the new rankings, which will be released Monday.
Next up for Miami, a Wednesday home stand against Florida Gulf Coast before a three-game road trip to Virginia Tech. From there, another Wednesday not contest – this time, against Stetson – before a road trip to Tallahassee to take on currently second-ranked Florida State.
Will Miami build off this take down of North Carolina? The next two weeks will certainly tell. – C.B.