When Steven Ewing took the mound on Wednesday night at Alex Rodriguez Park, he had yet to surrender a run on the season, and even though he gave up two in seven innings of work against Florida Atlantic University, he still came away with the win.
The No. 8 University of Miami baseball team is off to its best start since 2008, improving to 8-0 with a 10-5 victory over the Owls. Miami is the only undefeated team remaining in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“[FAU] beat me twice last year. Those were my only two losses of the season, so I definitely wanted to come out and have a good showing against them,” said Ewing, who is now 2-0 as Miami’s midweek starter this season.
The Canes got on the board quickly, scoring four runs in the first inning off of a Michael Broad grand slam. Miami scored another four runs in the bottom of the second after some less-than-stellar fielding from the Owls.
With runners on second and third and one out, senior Rony Rodriguez hit what looked to be a routine sacrifice fly, but FAU centerfielder Nathan Pittman lost track of the ball and Rodriguez wound up on second base with two-RBI double.
Meanwhile, after pitching two quick scoreless innings to open up the ballgame, Ewing ran into trouble in the top of the third.
Catcher Mike Spano led off with a groundball single to right field just past the diving reach of second baseman Stephen Perez. The nine hitter, Mitch Morales, then lined an off-speed pitch to right field for a single. That was followed by a nearly identical hit from leadoff hitter Mike Albaladejo, and Ewing faced a bases-loaded, no-out situation.
After Ewing walked in a run, pitching coach JD Arteaga visited the mound to calm him down, and the talk worked. Ewing got Corey Keller to pop up to catcher Peter O’Brien, and then Alex Hudak hit another pop up, this time to shallow right field for the second out of the inning.
Ewing then struck out Kyle Newton to end the third, one of his eight strikeouts on the night.
“It was good to see him get out of that; that shows you something about him when the pressure is on he threw strikes and he got after him,” coach Jim Morris said.
Now Miami must prepare for one of the most important series of the year. The top-ranked University of Florida will visit Coral Gables this weekend, a team that the Hurricanes are very familiar with for reasons they’d rather forget.
The Gators have been a thorn in Miami’s side over the past three seasons, sending Miami home in the NCAA Regionals in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Miami went 0-5 against Florida last year, including a three-game sweep up in Gainesville. TheCanes are 1-9 against their in-state rival over the past two seasons.
Needless to say, Morris is hoping for different results in this go-round of Miami against Florida.
“I’m excited about the series” Morris said. “We owe those guys a little bit – no question about it. They’ve had the upper hand lately and we need to show how good of a club we are.”
Last season Morris missed the Florida series while recovering from surgery to remove his gall bladder. It was all part of a bizarre start to the year for the Hurricanes, who entered that series 5-4 and left with record of 5-7.
“It’s all new this year,” Broad said. “The past is the past. This year’s what we’re looking for and right now we’re on a solid run and looking to continue it.”
Morris says that the weekend rotation will remain the same as it was for the Rutgers and Albany series, meaning graduate student Eric Erickson will start Friday night for the Hurricanes.
“Eric’s got a lot of confidence,” Morris said. “He’s beat Florida before and he’s pitched against them a few times, so I think that’s an advantage for him and for us, to have a veteran guy going in there.”