Hot bats fuel recent success on the field

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Junior Nathan Melendres makes contact during Sunday's game against NC State. Miami won all three games in the series. Alex Broadwell//The Miami Hurricane

Following a road trip to Boston College last weekend that saw two games postponed due to snow and freezing rain, the Hurricane baseball team returned to the comfortable weather of Coral Gables and fought for a three-game sweep of NC State this past weekend.

Miami won comfortably on Friday night 4-1, survived an extra-inning thriller on Saturday night by a score of 14-13 and shutout the Wolfpack in the series finale on Sunday afternoon, 3-0.

“It’s always hard to sweep,” head coach Jim Morris said following Sunday afternoon’s victory. “Last night [I told the team] ‘I want to sweep. We’ve got to get greedy, you’ve got to get it done.’”

The Hurricanes have rebounded nicely after getting swept by Georgia Tech two weeks ago. Since then, Miami has rattled off six straight victories, improving its ACC record to 11-3 in a very competitive Coastal Division that proudly houses three top 25 teams- Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia Tech.

“This is a tough conference,” Morris said. “First of all, you’ve got to fight to get into the ACC tournament, then you’ve got to fight to get into the NCAA tournament.”

Miami benefited from solid starting pitching the entire weekend against NC State, beginning on Friday night with freshman Bryan Radziewski on the mound.

The powerful lefty earned his fifth victory of the season, allowing one unearned run in five and two thirds innings of work.

“I felt good, did what I had to do and got the win,” Radziewski said.

Radziewski probably could have pitched deeper into the game, but Morris elected to go to the bullpen early for precautionary reasons.

“He said his arm was a little tight, his forearm,” Morris said. “He wanted to stay in the game…He was upset that he came out of the game to be honest.”

On Saturday, sophomore Eric Whaley took the hill for the Hurricanes and looked solid, pitching in what seemed to be a blowout victory in the making for the Hurricanes.

Miami took a 13-4 lead into the eighth inning but the bullpen imploded in the top of the frame, surrendering eight runs as NC State cut the deficit to one. In the top of the ninth, junior closer Daniel Miranda got two quick outs but ended up surrendering the tying run.

After Miami failed to score with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, Miranda held NC State at bay in the top of the tenth inning. Junior David Villasuso hit a walk-off single with teammate Cade Kreuter on third base to end the game.

“I knew it was enough to get him in, so I was excited,” Villasuso said of his game-winning hit.

On Sunday, sophomore E.J. Encinosa pitched one of the best games of his career. He went seven innings, allowed just two hits and struck out a career-high 11 batters. This time, the bullpen held it together and pitched three scoreless innings to retire the Wolfpack.

Miami’s offense struggled mightily at the beginning of the year, failing to put the ball in play in key situations. The team now looks completely different at the plate, having scored 68 runs in its past seven games.

Miami will test its red-hot offense in a three-game series at Maryland next weekend. The Terrapins are 15-17 with a 3-12 record in ACC play.

Adam Berger may be contacted at aberger@themiamihurricane.com

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