The baseball team rebounded from a Wednesday night loss to cross-town rival FIU in a big way by sweeping their series with the Penn State Nittany Lions, thanks to an 11-3 win in front of 1,528 fans Sunday at Mark Light Field.
The Hurricanes improve to 22-5 on the season with the victory.
Miami pitching was absolutely sensational all weekend long, silencing any doubts about the staff’s ability to perform without the services of Shawn Valdes-Fauli, who was kicked off the team last week.
Hurricane starters stepped up, giving up just four runs all weekend long and averaging 7.1 innings pitched, allowing the ‘Canes to keep their bullpen fresh for next weekend’s series against Georgia Tech.
“Pitching was really good this weekend,” Head Coach Jim Morris said. “You need four starters down the stretch in order to win ballgames.”
The ‘Canes jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first after a slew of seeing-eye singles that eluded Penn State infielders, giving starter J.D. Cockroft some run support early on.
Cockroft ended up needing the runs, as he gave up a home run in the second and another run in the third as PSU cut their deficit to 3-2.
The Miami merry-go-round continued in the third and fourth innings, adding two runs in each frame to extend their lead to 7-2.
Right fielder Brian Barton had a big day, going 3-5 with two runs batted in, two runs scored and a diving catch.
“We are playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Barton said. “We are all playing well on defense and defense is what wins ballgames.”
Cockroft would continue to cruise through seven innings before yielding to the bullpen, which finished what he started without a problem. With the win, Cockroft evened up his record to 2-2 with the win.
“The most important thing is that I hit my spots today,” Cockroft said. “When it comes down to it, I believe location is the most important part of pitching and good location keeps hitters off balance.”
The series was supposed to commence on Friday night, but Mother Nature proved to be the big winner, raining down on South Florida and forcing a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.
In the afternoon game of the Saturday doubleheader, starting pitcher Cesar Carrillo threw an absolute gem as the ‘Canes picked up a 6-1 victory over the Lions. Carrillo was outstanding, scattering just three hits over eight innings of work. The eight innings were the most pitched in one game by a UM starter this year. Carrillo remained undefeated as he improved his record to 4-0 on the season.
Offensively for the Hurricanes, Ryan Braun had a productive game, going 2-2 with a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored.
In the nightcap, pitching again took center stage, as the ‘Canes squeaked out a 1-0 victory on a shutout performance by Miami pitchers Brandon Camardese and George Huguet.
Gaby Sanchez drove in the only run of the game, plating Jim Burt, and that was all the ‘Canes would need.
Camardese pitched seven strong innings to improve to 3-0 on the season.
Huguet pitched two scoreless innings of relief for his sixth save of the season and more importantly the 37th save of his career, tying him with Rick Raether for the UM career saves record. Raether pitched for Miami from 1984-86, including as the 1985 national championship team.
The ‘Canes will gear up for what now becomes the toughest part of their schedule, with three games next weekend at Georgia Tech followed by six games in a row against bitter rival Florida State. Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech will be aired on the Sunshine Network.
Ryan Ellis can be contacted at email@example.com.