It was a week full of Miami baseball. Literally.
The Hurricanes helped the Miami Marlins open up their new downtown ballpark in an exhibition game Tuesday night, and then welcomed Miami (Ohio) University to Alex Rodriguez Park on Wednesday.
It’s become a yearly tradition for the Canes and Marlins to scrimmage each other in early March, but this time around was a bit more memorable that the previous outings at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.
The Marlins took the field for the first time at Marlins Park, and it was the building, not the baseball, that was the main attraction.
“It was a great night for our players and I think for the Marlins, to get to play the first game in this stadium,” coach Jim Morris said after the Canes lost to the Marlins 7-6. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful stadium.”
The evening was essentially a dress rehearsal for the new park. With the smell of fresh paint in the air, the digital scoreboards on the outfield walls were turned off, and the Marlins’ gigantic and colorful centerfield homerun sculpture didn’t spring to life when Hanley Ramirez lifted a ball over the right-field fence in the fourth inning.
But that’s not to say the state-of-the-art facility didn’t pass its most important test of the evening. As dark clouds, strong winds and the typically volatile South Florida weather surrounded the stadium just before first pitch, the retractable roof made its move and ensured Mother Nature could not impact the game.
“The first thing it does, you get a weather issue, and you just close the dome and play,” Morris said. “And that’s perfect; that’s something that’s needed in this ballpark.”
So, despite all the distractions surrounding the evening, a game was played and the Canes fared pretty well against one of the Marlins new free agent acquisitions, Mark Buehrle, who started Tuesday’s game on the mound.
Buehrle retired UM in order in both the first and second innings, and after Stephen Perez struck out to begin the third, the Canes hit three singles on three straight pitches to load the bases with one out.
Sophomore Dale Carey stepped into the batter’s box and also swung at the first pitch he saw from Buehrle, lining a bases-clearing double down the left field line to put Miami up 3-0.
“That was fun to get a hit off of a major leaguer like that in a clutch situation,” Carey said. “It was a good feeling.”
Buerhle left after the third inning, his first start of the spring and first time pitching in a Marlins uniform.
“Usually when I go up against Double-A and Single-A guys I don’t fare too well, so I was kind of nervous coming out facing college guys thinking it was going to be even worse,” joked Buerhle, a pitcher with a no-hitter and perfect game under his belt. “Three runs is pretty good; I’ll take that any day.”
On Wednesday night the Hurricanes were able to recover from their early struggles against the Redhawks of Miami (Ohio) to come away with their ninth win of the season. The Canes struggled to score early and trailed for most of the evening, but timely hitting along with some defensive miscues by the Hawks gave the fans in Coral Gables reason to go home happy.
“It was a tough game for us. The fact that we played Florida, we played the Marlins, I thought we came out flat during batting practice,” Morris said following the win. “We were very fortunate to win.”
The Redhawks struck first in the second inning after third baseman Bryan Beaver hit a two-RBI double after back-to-back singles off starter Steven Ewing. The Redhawks would add another run in the fourth, and the Hurricanes made it 3-1 in the bottom of the inning.
After an error in the eighth made it 3-2, the Canes got started in the ninth after shortstop Michael Broad, who entered the game in the seventh inning, got to second after a dropped fly ball. A single by Tyler Palmer and a walk by Dale Carey loaded the bases, and Broad was able tie the game on a close play at home plate.
“I knew I had to bust it in there. It was going to be a close play,” Broad said after the win. “I just had to go in hard and do whatever I had to do to score.”
An Esteban Tresgallo chopper to the shortstop would have sent it into extra innings, but the Redhawks’ Scott Slappey was unable to field it, allowing Palmer to cross home plate and giving the Canes their first, and only, lead of the game.
Following the midweek series, the Hurricanes must prepare for their first ACC series of the season this weekend when they welcome the Boston College Eagles to Alex Rodriguez Park. The team plays in conference games over the next eight weeks, and Coach Morris emphasized the importance of having the team hitting on all cylinders.
“We’ve got to get some guys hot at the bottom part of the lineup, the seventh through ninth hitters,” he said. “Going into the conference we know that every weekend is a tough weekend. You watch these teams play in the conference and they all have at least one really good pitcher. A lot of them have two, some of them have three. It’s a battle every weekend.”