For the fourth time in five years, the Hurricanes opened the season with a sweep against Rutgers. The No. 6 Canes finished off the Scarlet Knights with an 8-1 win on Sunday afternoon in front of 2,888 fans at Mark Light Field, making it 14 consecutive wins over the squad from New Jersey.
The Canes (3-0) benefitted from another great outing by the starting pitcher for the sweep. Junior Danny Garcia, pitching on his 22nd birthday, only allowed two hits and one walk in seven scoreless innings during the first weekend start of his career. Before Garcia on Sunday, senior Thomas Woodrey and junior Michael Mediavilla also had impressive outings against Rutgers (0-3). The stats for the Canes’ starters over the weekend: 18 innings pitched, nine hits, two walks, 15 strikeouts and one earned run for a combined 0.5 ERA.
“I thought we played team baseball, like we did the last two days. We pitched well. Of course, Danny Garcia pitched outstanding,” Miami Head Coach Jim Morris said.
The bullpen also performed well for the Canes. Freshman Frankie Bartow and juniors Cooper Hammond and Bryan Garcia ended the first two games without giving up a run while freshman Andrew Cabezas threw a scoreless inning in his first collegiate appearance. The highly touted freshman out of Coral Gables Senior High allowed one walk with two groundouts and a fly-out after relieving Garcia in the eighth.
Redshirt freshman Keven Pimentel let up a run in the ninth on Sunday, only the second run of the series for the Scarlet Knights. Miami outscored Rutgers 14-2 on the weekend.
“If you don’t have pitching you don’t go to Omaha. You got to play good defense, but you got to pitch,” Morris said. “You can’t outscore people every weekend. You got to pitch and you got to have a good bullpen. And that’s been a secret that’s got us to Omaha 12 times since I’ve been here.”
Miami’s bats came alive late on Sunday with the Canes scoring six runs in the final three innings. The team was glad to see the late outburst after struggling on the offensive side the first two games. The Canes combined for just six runs and 15 hits on Friday and Saturday. Miami scored 48 total runs in last year’s four-game series against Rutgers, including a 25-run explosion for the sweep.
Junior shortstop Johnny Ruiz led the Canes on Sunday with a career-high four hits – three singles and a double – in four at-bats. Ruiz was on fire the whole series, going 6-of-9 (.667) from the plate with five RBI and two walks.
“This fall, I didn’t hit too well in scrimmages, so I really focused on that this winter break and I’ve been successful and I just want to maintain that,” Ruiz said. “We broke out a little bit there towards the end of the game today, so I think we’re starting to get it together. It was only the first weekend but it’s a good start in the right direction.”
Sophomore Jesse Lepore will get his first career start on Wednesday as the Canes play St. Thomas University at 7 p.m. at Mark Light Field.