The Hurricanes hosted fourth-ranked Louisville for the first of a three-game series at Mark Light Field on Friday night. It will be hard for the next two to live up to the expectations that this one created, as the Canes pulled out an 8-4 victory on a walk-off grand slam from junior outfielder and team captain Willie Abreu.
“I was just trying to do whatever I could to get the winning run in and that happened. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that,” Abreu said.
The victory gave Head Coach Jim Morris his 1500th all-time win, and he mentioned that it’s definitely one he won’t forget anytime soon. When asked about the milestone, with a grin he said, “That just means I’ve been around a long time, but it’s undoubtedly a great way to get your 1500th win.”
Sixth-ranked Miami (15-3, 3-1) came out of the gates sluggish and starting righty Thomas Woodrey gave up a couple of runs in the first two innings to a strong Louisville lineup. At the plate, the Canes were stuck in neutral until it sparked the offense with a giant three-run homer that put Miami ahead 3-2.
After a couple innings of solid pitching, Louisville (15-3, 3-1) came back to tie it up with a solo home run in the top of the fourth. Woodrey was able to come back strong and salvage a solid outing after his shaky start, but the offense kept leaving runners on base, squandering multiple opportunities with the bases loaded. The Cardinals made Miami pay for this in the top of the sixth, when a sacrifice fly to center field allowed them to regain the lead heading into the seventh.
Relief pitchers Andrew Cabezas and Bryan Garcia pitched almost perfectly in the remaining three innings, but it looked as if it just wasn’t the Canes’ night when a hard hit grounder resulted in an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.
However, this Miami squad just wouldn’t go away. In the bottom of the eighth the Canes were able to get some runners on base, and sophomore outfielder Carl Chester gave the team life by driving in a game-tying run. Miami was then able to manufacture three singles in the bottom of the ninth to load the bases for Abreu, and he took advantage of it. On the first pitch of his at-bat, he blasted the walk-off grand slam well over the right field fence as the dugout and stands went crazy.
“It’s the best feeling in baseball. They’re a great squad and for us to get a win like that over them is huge,” junior catcher Zack Collins said.
After this exhilarating night, the Canes will look to build on this momentum and clinch the series over Louisville at 8 p.m. on Saturday night at the Light.