Despite a series victory, Miami struggles

Nathan Melendres dives safely into third base on Friday night. The Hurricanes won their second series in a row to open the 2010 baseball season. Steven Stuts//Asst Photo Editor

A baseball team visiting from the frigid northeast opened its season in Coral Gables for the second consecutive weekend, and just like their predecessors, the Jaspers of Manhattan College flew home unhappy with both the weather and results. In a chilly weekend affair, the 10th-ranked Miami Hurricanes won their second consecutive series, taking two out of three games and improving to 5-1 on the young season.

Junior lefty Eric Erickson set the tone for Miami with a quality start in Friday’s series opener, notching nine strikeouts over six solid innings in a 7-3 win. Two costly pitches, both of which sailed over the outfield fences for Jasper home runs, prevented Erickson from earning the win upon his departure.

“I wanted to leave him in there in the sixth inning because I thought he pitched well enough to earn the win,” head coach Jim Morris said.

The Hurricanes’ offense floundered in support of its ace, finally breaking the tie in the seventh inning. Freshman Michael Broad, earning his career start as a Hurricane, ended the deadlock with a bases-loaded single. The Fort Lauderdale native recorded the first hit of his Hurricane career earlier in the game on an RBI triple.

“It was a great feeling,” Broad said of his first hit. “If you hit the ball hard, you’ll find your way into this lineup.”

Atoning for their unimpressive performance from the previous night, the Hurricane offense came out scorching hot in an 18-1 win on Saturday. After a five-run first inning, the Canes continued to crush Jasper pitching until the very end, posting a combined 12 runs in the final three innings. Junior catcher Yasmani Grandal led the charge for the Canes, recording five RBI in his best offensive showing of the season. The Canes were aided by a whopping six Jasper errors.

Junior lefthander Chris Hernandez displayed the dominant repertoire that earned him All-American honors as a freshman, posting seven innings of work that resulted in his first win of the season. The Miami native baffled Jasper hitters with his combination of signature cut fastball and off-speed repertoire, finishing the night with only three hits allowed and nine strikeouts.

“It pays off when you work hard all week and everything is on,” Hernandez said. “The cutter was definitely working, but everything was landing for strikes.”

Hurricane senior pitcher Jason Santana was unable to keep the momentum going on Sunday, surrendering nine hits and six earned runs in a disappointing 12-to-7 loss. 2009 M.A.A.C Pitcher of the Year Mike Gazzola was equally as unimpressive for the Jaspers, allowing seven earned runs in five innings of work. The Jaspers, however, used a seven-run fourth inning to build a lead they would not relinquish.

The Hurricanes staged a comeback in the middle innings as home runs from senior second baseman Scott Lawson and sophomore catcher David Villasuso cut the seven run deficit down to two. The Canes’ bullpen was unable to stop the bleeding, however, as the Jaspers tacked on three runs in the seventh.

Despite the series victory, Morris was unhappy with his team’s performance on Sunday.

“You have to sweep at home. You can split series on the road, but you sweep at home,” Morris said. “Anytime you score seven runs, you have to win.”

The Hurricanes have a midweek visit to battle the Bulls of South Florida and an exhibition against the Florida Marlins before a weekend blockbuster against the in-state rival and No. 5 Florida Gators. As always, all Hurricane baseball games can be heard on WVUM 90.5 The Voice.

Camron Ghorbi may be contacted at

David Villasuso batting against Manhattan College. Steven Stuts//Asst Photo Editor