The 12th-ranked University of Miami baseball team opened up its 2009 season at the newly-renovated Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field by winning three of four games against Rutgers University.
“The good news is we won three of four,” head coach Jim Morris said. “The bad news is we have a lot of work, particularly on our defense. We got a lot of guys in the game and got some young guys experience.”
Both teams struggled to shake off the early rust as they combined for 21 errors during the four-game set. Thirteen were committed by Miami.
UM (3-1) defeated the Scarlet Knights (1-3) 6-1 on Friday night in front of a capacity crowd.
“Nice win on opening day,” Morris said. “We had a lot of good things. It’s my 1,200th win which is kind of crazy. I guess that means I have been around a while. It’s your birthday, it’s opening day, you got a sellout crowd, new stadium. I can’t think of many things that could be better. It was a great day all around.”
Junior college transfer Scott Lawson led the way for the Hurricanes as he went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two doubles in his debut. He finished the series 7-of-16 with four RBIs and four doubles.
“It was good to come through in the clutch for Chris [Hernandez] and the team,” Lawson said. “I had a lot of goosebumps playing and I was real excited.”
Sophomore left-hander Chris Hernandez (1-0) pitched six innings while allowing just one run on three hits. He did tie a career-high by walking three and hitting two batters.
“A win is a win, but I don’t feel it was one of my better performances,” the preseason All-American said.
With the Canes leading 2-1, freshman first baseman Harold Martinez served a single up the middle with the bases loaded to give Miami a three-run cushion.
On Saturday, UM split a doubleheader as each game went only seven innings.
The Hurricanes eked out a 4-2 victory in game one despite committing four errors.
In the sixth, trailing 2-1, sophomore catcher Yasmani Grandal worked a lead-off walk. After a Martinez pop-up, senior right fielder Dave DiNatale hit a double down the third baseline. With two outs and runners on second and third, senior left fielder Jonathon Weislow picked up his first hit of the young season by drilling a two-run single up the middle to put the Canes up for good.
Saturday night was the same story but with a different result.
Miami committed four errors for the second time in as many games, and it proved to be costly as Rutgers took game two, 5-4.
Tied at four apiece in the seventh, sophomore second baseman Brandon Boykin, who had been0-for-30 in his college career, singled to start things off for the Scarlet Knights and scored from first on a sacrifice bunt when the Hurricanes failed to cover third and home.
To close the series, the Canes used the long ball to propel them to an 18-9 win on Sunday afternoon. Lawson hit a two-run homer and Hagerty blasted two, one of which was a grand slam. It was the first time the switch hitter has blasted dingers from both sides of the plate.
Sophomore Iden Nazario made his first career start and pitched six solid innings. He surrendered three runs and struck out a career-high eight hitters. At one point he retired 13 batters in a row.
Nazario said he was pitching with extra motivation.
“I actually want the Saturday night spot, but I guess I have to take baby steps, get Sunday, then Saturday.” he said. “I have been working real hard making the transition from reliever to starter and working on a lot more pitches.”
Junior shortstop Ryan Jackson picked up his first hits Sunday after starting the season 0-for-6 and was a home run shy of the cycle.
The Hurricanes travel to Gainesville next weekend as they play a three-game series against the 24th-ranked University of Florida (3-0) beginning Friday night at 6:30 p.m.