Illinois State splits midweek series with struggling Canes

Sophomore Chantz Mack swings during the game against Illinois on Wednesday, March 9. Jessica Hodder//The Miami Hurricane

Jim Morris is back in the dugout, but the Canes are still struggling.

After missing the better part of the last two weeks recovering from surgery to remove his gall bladder, the veteran head baseball coach returned to see his team split a two-game series against Illinois State.

Miami (5-8) won Tuesday night’s opener against the Redbirds in extra innings 5-4, but fell on Wednesday night 9-2.

Miami struggled while Morris was out. During his absence the Canes were swept by Florida and fell out of the top 30 in all major polls for the first time since 1999.

“I’m depressed when I watch the games right now,” Morris said. “We’ve got to play the game better.”

In the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s game, Morris benched junior Harold Martinez, who is hitting below .200 on the season.

“He’s struggling… this is a big year for him. He’s got to get it done,” Morris said of Martinez, who led Miami with 21 home runs in 2010. “I told him [that] nobody feels sorry for him, nobody feels sorry for us.”

In Tuesday night’s win the Hurricanes produced arguably their most clutch hit of the season. With the game tied at four in the bottom of the 11th inning junior Rony Rodriguez drilled an 0-1 pitch over the wall for a walk-off home run.

“I wasn’t looking for a home run. I was trying to get on base, trying to put the ball in play,” said Rodriguez, who leads the Canes with two home runs on the year. “I got a little under [the ball] and it went out.”

The dramatic victory was a relief for Morris.

“I feel good,” Morris said after Tuesday night’s victory. “I’m a little weak from surgery. Two things that made me feel best to be honest was getting back on the field and getting a win. Those two things were definitely a cure that they didn’t have at the hospital.”

On Wednesday night, however, the Canes played a very sloppy game all around, committing three errors on the way to the team’s third midweek loss of the season.

“We didn’t play very well tonight… we made errors. Our bullpen didn’t pitch well. We didn’t hit with guys on base, we took too many called third strikes,” Morris said.

Many are wondering if this squad has enough talent to get back to the NCAA regionals.

“We’ve got some young players that have potential to be good players. The word potential is always scary because that means that you’ve got a chance to be a good player, doesn’t mean that you are a good player,” Morris said.

The Hurricanes will welcome Virginia Tech for a three-game series at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. All three games can be heard on 90.5 WVUM.

Adam Berger may be contacted at