The opening weekend for the Miami Hurricane baseball team started and ended in style.
Facing his first batters since returning from Tommy John surgery, Miami ace redshirt junior Eric Erickson, struck out the side to open up the season Friday night and, with that, the Hurricane baseball season was underway.
On Sunday, with the Hurricanes trailing 7-6 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, freshman centerfielder Zeke DeVoss hit an opposite-field walk-off three-run home run to give UM a 9-7 victory and the Canes (3-0) ultimately swept the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (0-3).
“I don’t know how many times in 17 years I’ve seen us do something like that,” said head coach Jim Morris referring to the Sunday come-from-behind victory. “[We] pulled a game out late… that’s just been Miami baseball for many, many years.”
Erickson was terrific opening night; tossing 5 and 2/3 innings, surrendering just one unearned run and while striking out six. Needless to say, the southpaw was happy to be back on the mound pitching for the Canes.
A lot is expected of the Hurricanes’ starting staff this year, which can now return to the lethal one-two punch of Erickson and junior left-hander Chris Hernandez that it enjoyed in the 2008 season.
“It really must have been an extremely hard decision to figure out who was going to pitch Friday and who was going to pitch Saturday. It could have gone either way,” Erickson said. “We have the best staff in the country, without a question.”
Hernandez was a little less impressive in his debut. He only pitched four innings on Saturday night, but was able to buckle down in key spots and limit damage, giving up just one run. The Hurricanes went on to win the lengthy game by the score of 10-8 as the bullpen struggled in relief and the game lasted three hours and 52 minutes.
“Baseball wouldn’t be too fun to watch if you had to watch games that long every night,” Coach Jim Morris said. “If there’s one thing that’s always true, an ugly win is a lot better than an ugly loss and we won tonight.”
Right-handed senior closer David Gutierrez did earn his first career save in the game, striking out the side in the ninth inning. Gutierrez, the primary Saturday starter from last season, has big shoes to fill as the replacement for last year’s phenomenal closer Kyle Bellamy, who is now in the Chicago White Sox minor league system.
“Kyle was a great player… I try not to compare myself to anyone else,” Gutierrez said. “I want to make my own legacy… it’s hard to fill his shoes definitely but I’m trying to do my own thing.”
On Sunday, the Hurricanes battled their way through a wild game, coming up on top in a 9-7 victory.
Freshman center fielder Zeke DeVoss only had one hit in the game, but it was a big one. With the Canes down to their final out trailing 7-6 in the ninth, DeVoss came up to the plate with runners on second and third and hit an opposite field home run, sending the 3,094 fans at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field into a frenzy.
“Going into that at bat I really, really zoned in and focused,” DeVoss said. “I was trying to poke [the ball]over the shortstop’s head to score a run… luckily I drove it out of the ballpark.”
The bullpen was solid in relief of starter Jason Santana, who went five innings giving up five runs, four of which were earned. Costly errors in the field almost did the Canes in however.
“The first three and a half innings we played absolutely horrible,” said Morris, who saw his relief pitchers surrender only one earned run but his fielders commit four errors. “We made a lot of mental mistakes… but in the end we’re Miami baseball and we won it.”
Miami faces Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. That game can be heard on 90.5 FM WVUM.
Adam Berger may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.