With the winning run on third and the infield in with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning, sophomore Stephen Perez lofted a ball to left.
Instead of letting the ball drop in foul territory, Steve Zavala made the catch and failed to throw out sophomore Zeke DeVoss – Miami’s fastest runner – as the 18th-ranked Hurricanes beat Rutgers 2-1 Friday night at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.
“I was hoping that he would catch the ball and that was my job,” Perez said. “I was just trying to take a pitch that I could drive and hit the ball into the outfield and end the game.”
In a season opener that coincided with the debut of non-wood bats that must produce the same ball speeds as wooden bats, hits were scarce.
The two teams combined for just 12 and the hardest hit ball of the night took more than three hours and 11 innings.
DeVoss’ triple to straightaway center with one out in the bottom of the 11th set up Perez’s sacrifice fly to left. The left fielder collect two of UM’s seven hits.
The Hurricanes (1-0) stranded 13 runners, including six in the first two innings.
“We didn’t execute very well offensively and didn’t do the type of things we need to do to score runs,” head coach Jim Morris said. “We had some opportunities, but we left too many guys in scoring position.”
Junior left-hander Sam Robinson (1-0) earned the win after pitching a scoreless 11th. He was the fourth UM pitcher on the night, which began with true freshman Bryan Radziewski’s six-inning performance.
The lefty, who became the first freshman to open a season during Morris’ tenure at UM, allowed just three hits and one run with eight strikeouts.
“I was just throwing a lot of strikes and getting ahead of batters,” Radziewski said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much.”
That lone Rutgers (0-1) run came in the first inning on back-to-back hits. Zavala’s opposite field squibber down the third-base line went for a double and he scored on a soft grounder up the middle by Steve Nyisztor.
“That hit up the middle that brought the guy in was just a bad pitch, two strikes and I left it right down the middle,” Radziewski said.
Miami picked up an unearned run in the second on an error by the second baseman that scored junior David Villasuso from second after his one-out double.
But the Canes wouldn’t score again until the final frame as they left the bases loaded in the first two innings.
Another freshman, Adam Sargent, who is the team’s set-up man, pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Radziewski. Sophomore closer Daniel Miranda came on in the ninth inning and pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
“The bullpen was superb right behind him [Radziewski],” Morris said. “It’s a good win and we played good defense. We talked about the importance of pitching and defense and we saw it tonight.”
Miami and Rutgers will play again at 7 p.m. Saturday at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.
“I don’t remember too many low-scoring games here dominated by pitching,” Morris said. “The game’s changed.”
Christina De Nicola may be contacted at email@example.com.