When University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris learned in late January that catcher Peter O’Brien was ruled eligible to play for the Hurricanes in 2012, he knew that the transfer from Bethune-Cookman University would improve Miami’s lineup.
O’Brien went two for three in Miami’s 11-4 victory over the St. Thomas Bobcats on Wednesday night, improving his batting average to .398 and his on-base percentage to .495. Now nearly halfway through the season, O’Brien, originally from Miami, leads the Hurricanes in homeruns, RBIs and is clearly the team’s MVP.
The No. 8 Hurricanes got on the board quickly in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, Stephen Perez hit a double to right centerfield, sliding safely into second base just in front of the throw from centerfielder Joel Capote.
O’Brien then stepped into the batter’s box, batting as the Canes’ designated hitter for the night while taking a break from his regular catching duties. The senior lined the second pitch he saw to centerfield for a single that plated Perez easily. O’Brien would come around to score later in the inning off a wild pitch from St. Thomas starter Michael Arostegui.
In the bottom of the third inning the combination of Perez and O’Brien got things started once more for the Hurricanes. Perez doubled to leadoff the inning, and O’Brien crushed a homerun over the leftfield fence, his ninth homerun of the season.
Chantz Mack would knock in two runs of his own later in the inning on his first double of the year bringing the Canes’ lead to 6-1, forcing Arostegui from the game after just 2 and 2/3 innings of work. The six runs would be more than enough to ensure the win for Miami.
“It feels good, I’m starting to get hot. Just trying to keep it going,” said Mack, who had two hits in the game, raising his batting average from .213 to .240.
The junior outfielder admitted that he had been pressing earlier in the year, but hopes his struggles are behind him.
“I tell myself just keep working. You can’t get down in baseball,” Mack said. “It’s a very humbling game.”
O’Brien’s 31 RBIs are almost double that of Perez and Fieger’s 17, the next highest totals for the Hurricanes.
Mack smiled when asked about O’Brien’s season.
“O’Brien is a freak of nature. He’s the man,” Mack said. “We feed off of him, he’s our big bat in our lineup and he’s hardly ever down. He always keeps a good upbeat attitude about himself and I think that contributes to his success.”
Buried in the outburst of offense for Miami was the fact that Bryan Radziewski made the first weekday start of his young career for the Hurricanes. He pitched three innings with one hit ball, surrendering one unearned run while throwing a total of 65 pitches.
Radziewski started out the season pitching on Sundays for the Hurricanes, but a violation of team rules and a subsequent suspension bumped Steven Ewing into the weekend rotation.
Wednesday was the first time Radziewski pitched since March 11, a dominant outing against Boston College that saw the lefty go seven innings surrendering just one hit and no runs. As of now there is no indication that Radziewski will move back into the weekend rotation.
Miami will continue its ACC schedule this weekend, going on the road to play a three-game series in South Carolina against Clemson. The Tigers are 3-6 in conference games this year and hold and overall record of 12-12. The Hurricanes haven’t played Clemson since the 2009 season, when they lost two of three games to the Tigers.