It was not pretty, but it worked.
After falling behind by six runs early on Saturday night, the Hurricanes baseball team was able to scratch and claw it’s way back as Canes’ left fielder, Jim Burt took ball four to force in the winning run in Miami’s first come from behind win when trailing after eight innings.
The 8-7 win over the UCLA Bruins gave hurricane fans much more to cheer about than the Jim Morris Bobblehead dolls that were given away to the first 2,500 fans that showed up at Mark Light Stadium.
“This was a very important game for us,” said Miami shortstop, Javy Rodriguez, whose lead off double in the ninth set up the game tying RBI. “I can’t remember the last time we won the first game of the series. Now, one more win and we win the series, we don’t have to play catch up. It completely changes the mindset of the team. This game could easily be the turning point of the season for us.”
After being lit up by UCLA hitting for seven earned runs in the first five innings, including two long balls, UM starter, Troy Roberson was given the hook, his team down by six. Much to his delight, an unusual combination of Hurricane offense and relief pitching salvaged a no decision for Roberson and a much-needed win for the Canes.
“We need to stop that big inning,” said Hurricane head coach Jim Morris. “It gets us every time.”
Morris was referring to the top of the third in which the Bruin’s touched up the Canes for five runs, including a base clearing three run triple by UCLA right fielder Ben Francisco and a long ball to left field by the Bruins catcher, Casey Grzecka.
Roberson settled down for a healthy fourth inning but was quickly yanked after the fifth inning which included a two run blast in the top of the fifth by UCLA left fielder Chris Jensen, a freshmen who was making his first start ever in left field. His first collegiate home run landed in the second deck of the Miami parking garage in right field giving the Bruins a 7-1 lead.
The Miami bullpen took over and allowed no runs and a single hit over the next four innings. UM relievers, Ryan Dixon, Andrew Cohn, and George Huguet, who received the victory (3-1) combined to set down 12 of the 14 batters who faced them including four strikeouts and eight ground outs.
Miami put up a four spot in the bottom of the sixth, with a huge two out rally involving a two run single by Jim Burt. A slew of UCLA mishaps including several wild pitches, passed balls and a throwing error all of which allowed UM to take advantage to make the score 7-6 UCLA going into the seventh inning.
Miami completed the comeback in the bottom of the ninth when Rodriguez doubled to start off the inning, followed by an RBI single by senior Brad Safchik, who failed to sacrifice bunt Rodriguez to third on the previous two pitches.
“Before the game we had our most intensive bunting practice of the year and I think tonight was probably our worst bunting performance of the season,” said Morris. “You never can tell what is going to happen, but we’ll take the single.”
After UCLA pitcher Billy Susdorf loaded the bases, Jim Burt stepped up to the plate with two outs and the winning run 90 feet away. With the count running to 3-1 the senior’s eyes bulged.
“I was looking for a fast ball belt high, and if I saw it I was going to rip it,” said Burt. “I was just going up there and trying to be aggressive.”
Burt didn’t have to rip it, all he had to do was look at it as Susdorf gracefully threw ball four inside, allowing Miami to walk off with the win, literally.
The win improves the Canes record to 14-12 while the Bruins fall to 13-14 on the year. The two teams played on Sunday and Monday but the games were not finished at the time of publication.