The brooms were out for the first time this season at Alex Rodriguez Park this weekend.
Catcher Peter O’Brien had a career day, the pitching staff clamped down in the final two innings, and the Hurricanes (3-0) came away with an opening series sweep against Rutgers (0-3) on Sunday afternoon, defeating the Scarlet Knights 9-7.
“I was just focusing on driving the ball the other way today,” said O’Brien, who went 4-5 on Sunday with two homeruns and three RBI’s. “The wind was blowing good that way and I just focused on staying on top of the ball.”
Rutgers struck first on Sunday afternoon, when, after striking out catcher Michael Zavala, Miami’s Bryan Radziewski gave up three consecutive singles, letting in the first run.
Miami struck back in the bottom of the inning with three runs of their own, scored by Michael Broad, Jarred Mederos and Tyler Palmer.
From then on it was a back-and-forth affair, with each team scoring at least one run every inning from the bottom of the third until the top of the seventh.
Following a dominant pitching performance on Saturday night, Radziewski struggled with control throughout his 3.2 innings of work on Sunday, giving up four runs. But although the Scarlet Knights kept cutting into the Hurricanes lead and fighting their way back into the game, Miami’s offense made sure they didn’t get too close.
Eric Nedeljkovic and E.J. Encinosa shut down the Knights over the final two frames, pitching 2.1 inning of perfect baseball to help Miami earn the series sweep.
“Today was a lot different than [Saturday], just because we pitched so well yesterday,” head coach Jim Morris said after Sunday’s win. “We didn’t pitch too well today. Today was a day for the hitters. They did a great job of answering back every time that Rutgers scored some runs, we answered right back.”
Miami started the series on Friday night, when Eric Erickson, pitching his first game since being sidelined with Tommy John surgery in 2010, came out strong. He pitched six shutout innings and struck out seven.
“I didn’t think I was going to go that deep, but I felt strong,” Erickson said after the win. “I don’t think my velocity dropped at all. I felt strong and I’ve been working so hard, so that was a nice reward.”
After the offense went out and scored six runs in Friday night’s 6-2 opening win, offense was tougher to come by on Saturday. A solo homerun courtesy of Dale Carey gave Miami the lead, but an RBI double by Rutgers centerfielder Brian O’Grady tied it up at 1-1.
A pitcher’s duel for the majority of the contest, Miami had an opportunity to put the game away in the bottom of the ninth inning. But with the bases loaded and one out, a flyout from Esteban Tresgallos and a strikeout by Alex Fernandez ended Miami’s threat.
After sophomore AJ Salcinas pitched out of a similar, bases-loaded jam, senior Rony Rodriguez put the game away in the bottom of the 12th inning with a walk-off, three-run homerun, giving the Canes a 4-1 win.
“I was looking for a changeup,” Rodriguez said. “I struck out the at-bat before, looked pretty stupid, so I tried to hit it the other way.”
The Hurricanes travel west on Wednesday to take on Florida Gulf Coast in Fort Myers before returning to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field for a weekend series against the Albany Great Danes beginning on Friday.
Every game this season will be broadcast live on WVUM 90.5 FM or wvum.org.