A day after being unanimously ranked No. 1 in the country, the University of Miami baseball team squared off against a Division II opponent Tuesday night. Not exactly a fair fight. The top-ranked Hurricanes turned the Nova Southeastern Sharks into chum with a decisive 8-3 victory for their 10th consecutive win this season.
“That No. 2 to No. 1 jump, you kind of feel a little bit like you got a crown on your head. Feels good,” junior catcher Zack Collins said of moving up to the top spot in the rankings.
The Hurricanes took an early lead in the second on a sacrifice fly by backup catcher Joe Gomez, who was making his first start of the season. Miami coach Jim Morris rewarded the junior for his game-winning hit with player of the game honors.
“He’s sky-high right now. He won’t sleep tonight,” Morris said of Gomez. “We told him yesterday [he was starting]and he probably didn’t sleep last night.”
The Canes (26-4) struggled at the plate until the sixth inning when they added six runs and knocked out Nova left-handed starter Jonny Ortiz in the process. The inning started and ended with fly outs by junior first baseman Chris Barr, but in between the rest of Miami’s lineup knocked Nova pitchers around for six hits.
Senior shortstop Brandon Lopez drove in the first run with a sac-fly to left, followed by a two-run triple to right-center field by right fielder Willie Abreu. Righty Ronald Patella came in for Ortiz (4-2) after the junior’s triple, but the pitching change could not stem the flow of Miami runs. Two singles by junior third baseman Edgar Michelangeli and sophomore center fielder Carl Chester plated three more for the Canes, putting Miami up 7-0 going into the seventh.
Abreu prompted a new chant to break out among some of the 2,395 fans at Mark Light Field with a diving catch near the right field line to start the seventh. Rather than the familiar shouts of “rag-arm” and “sientate,” a group of fans yelled out “We’re number one!” in honor of Miami’s recent rise to the top of the college baseball rankings.
“It’s pretty cool. We don’t really talk about it,” Abreu said of the No. 1 ranking. “I don’t think that’s really what we look for. We just go out there trying to win every game.”
Collins nearly made it 8-0 to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but his deep shot to center field just caught the top part of the fence and the star slugger, noticeably disappointed, settled for a stand-up double. Collins, who has reached base in 25 consecutive games, scored on a two-out wild pitch to give the Canes a commanding eight-run lead.
“I got all of that one, so I expected it to go out. Probably saw with the way I was running,” Collins said of the near home run.
Nova (25-12) avoided the shutout in the eighth thanks to two uncharacteristic errors by Miami. The Canes came into the matchup with an ACC-leading .983 fielding percentage, but back-to-back errors by junior second baseman Randy Batista gave the Sharks their first run. Nova tacked on another run on a sac-fly to center field and a third with a two-out double to right.
Lefthander Danny Garcia started for Miami with a pre-determined pitch count around 50 since he is slated to pitch again on Sunday. The junior exited the game after 49 pitches in 4.0 innings, but still was credited with his fifth win of the season. A pair of right-handed freshmen, Keven Pimentel and Isaiah Musa, handled Nova the rest of the way.
The Canes next play Central Florida at 6 p.m. on Wednesday night at Mark Light Field.