Despite Mother Nature’s strongest attempts to hinder the Hurricanes, Miami’s season is off to a hot start.
After pouring rain delayed the start of the 2013 season on Friday, the Canes took both games of a doubleheader on Saturday and came away with a win against Rutgers on Sunday to secure a series sweep of the Scarlet Knights.
It was the fifth year Miami (3-0) has opened its season against Rutgers (0-3), with the Canes winning the last seven matchups.
“I thought we played very well today. We pitched good,” coach Jim Morris said on Sunday. “We played outstanding defense and did a good job with situational hitting. Situational hitting is the way you win games. I think we did some little things that we have to do as a team to be able to win.”
With two top starters – junior Bryan Radziewski and senior Eric Whaley – out due to injuries, several newcomers are making their Hurricane debuts. Freshman shortstop Brandon Lopez came up with big defensive stops, junior transfer Alex Hernandez hit in all three games, and freshman David Thompson picked up five RBIs over the weekend.
“It felt good to go out and produce a little bit,” Thompson said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to help them drive in a few more runs.”
The Hurricanes took advantage of three Scarlet Knights errors on Sunday afternoon, as Miami overpowered Rutgers 7-0. Starting pitcher Andrew Suarez, pitching for the first time since undergoing surgery last season, threw five scoreless innings and was surrounded by offensive and defensive contributions.
“It felt really good,” he said. “I didn’t really have my best stuff today because of the weather. I didn’t have a grip on the ball. So I trusted my defense to make plays.”
After the Friday night opener was postponed due to excessive rain throughout the day, both offenses started off slowly in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader. The Scarlet Knights struck first in the top of the fifth on an RBI single by left fielder Vinny Zarillo.
The Canes struck back with three of their own in the bottom of the sixth when shortstop Alex Hernandez hit an RBI single to drive in Michael Broad. Two batters later, freshman David Thompson knocked a two-run single of his own, his first hit and RBI to give Miami a 3-1 lead.
Rutgers got three back off of junior closer AJ Salcines in the top of the ninth to put Miami on the ropes, down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth. But with the bases loaded and one out, pinch hitter Garrett Kennedy delivered a game-winning single to seal the 5-4 victory.
“I was thinking, ‘Just get the job done, don’t put too much pressure on yourself.’ That’s what you live for right there,” Kennedy said. “You want to be up there with the bases loaded like that and win the game. You can’t be afraid of anything, you just have to hope for it, and you want to be up for that moment. When [Morris] gave me the call I was so excited and I got the job done today.”
The nightcap of the doubleheader was not as exciting an affair, with the Hurricanes scoring twice in the first inning on RBIs by Thompson and centerfielder Dale Carey en route to a 4-1 win. Starting pitcher Javi Salas hurled six innings, surrendering one run on four hits in the seven-inning contest that was shortened as part of the doubleheader.
“I had to go out there and get outs. Whether it’s seven innings or nine innings, whatever you’ve got to do to give your team the best chance to win,” Salas said. “I went out there, tried to get outs as quick as possible.”
The weather was unusually chilly for a February opener at Alex Rodriguez Park. Game one on Saturday hovered around the mid-70s, but quickly dipped into the low 60s for game two and remained that way for Sunday’s afternoon affair.
“We were freezing when we first got out to stretch. We were freezing all in our jackets, and they [Rutgers] were out in shorts and enjoying it,” senior outfielder Chantz Mack said. “But we didn’t let it get to us. We just played our game … It didn’t really impact us at all.”
Miami will hit the road for the first time in 2013 on Wednesday, when they travel an hour up I-95 to take on Florida Atlantic.
The game – scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch – can be heard live on 90.5 FM or wvum.org.