During the Hurricanes’ six game winning streak, the team has displayed an abundance of power – averaging almost 11 runs and hitting at least one home run per game.
That was just one of the factors that propelled Miami to a dominating sweep this weekend at the Homestead Challenge.
Miami (8-4) defeated Florida International, Kansas State and Lipscomb, outscoring the trio, 27-8. Not only were the bats on fire, but the Hurricanes’ starting pitchers recorded their first victories of the season.
“We seem to be getting more consistent as a team,” UM coach Jim Morris said. “We pitched well, played good defense and swung the bat. That’s what we have to do – be consistent and get a total team effort.”
The Hurricanes beat Lipscomb, 10-2, on Sunday, with Danny Matienzo belting his seventh home run in six games. Matienzo has been the most powerful bat in the Hurricanes’ lineup, overcoming an early season slump. The junior’s power surge began when Morris switched him from catcher to designated hitter.
“It was a coincidence that in the beginning I caught and I didn’t hit, and then (Morris) put me at DH and I ended up hitting,” Matienzo said. “I knew I could be able to do both.”
Matienzo moved back to the catcher role on Sunday but didn’t miss a beat. He went 3 for 5 with two RBI and a home run.
“He was struggling early hitting, and I thought it was a direct result of the catching, so we got the hit going and now we’ll let him catch more,” Morris said.
Matienzo was behind the plate to catch Kiki Bengochea (1-2) on Sunday, who entered with a 10.64 ERA. Bengochea had his best outing of the year, giving up just two runs and five hits in six innings.
“Everybody knows we need Kiki to pitch well and be an important part of our staff,” Morris said. “When it got tough in the sixth inning, he showed me something and he really reared back when he started to get a little tired.”
Said Bengochea: “I needed a good outing to go out there and to prove to myself that I could throw strikes when I want to and get as many ground balls as I can. My biggest problem has been getting behind every single hitter that I face. When you’re behind, you’re going to struggle.”
The whole starting rotation had seemed to struggle before this weekend. On Saturday, T.J. Prunty (1-0) pitched a career-high six innings, giving up three runs on nine hits. That was all the Hurricane batters needed as they exploded for 11 runs on 17 hits. Kevin Howard led Miami with a 3 for 4 performance, including 2 RBI and two runs scored.
Howard, who missed Friday’s game against FIU with flu-like symptoms, had an RBI double and later scored during a seven run fourth inning that put the ‘Canes up for good.
Miami didn’t need Howard in its 6-2 win on Friday, avenging its earlier loss to the Golden Panthers.
Troy Roberson (1-0) eclipsed a career high with eight strikeouts and five innings pitched. Matienzo went 3 for 4 and Shawn Valdes-Fauli and George Huguet combined to shut out the Golden Panthers over the final four innings.
The Hurricanes will try to ride this wave of power and pitching into arguably one of the toughest tournaments in the country. Miami takes on nationally ranked USC, Cal St. Fullerton and Houston in the Cal St. Fullerton Tournament beginning on Friday.
“It’s good that we’re heading up there with a six-game winning streak,” Matienzo said. “We’ve just got to keep it going and gain a lot of confidence.”