Last weekend, the Hurricanes took three big steps forward after sweeping the then-third ranked UNC Tar Heels at Mark Light Field.
On Wednesday night, they took a step back.
Despite a strong outing from starting pitcher Javi Salas, the Hurricanes’ offense fell flat in a 4-2 loss to the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Miami (24-9, 11-4 ACC), ranked sixth following the weekend sweep, was held to just four hits on the evening.
“I’m not a psychologist, but the real deal is, we pitched well and our hitters were awful,” coach Jim Morris said. “They did not show up. It was one of the worst hitting performances that I’ve seen from a Miami club in 19 years.”
The Eagles got off to a quick start in the first inning when, after shortstop Stephen Perez bobbled what could have been a double-play ball, FGCU first baseman Sean Dwyer sent a double into centerfield to drive in the two baserunners.
Miami would strike back in the bottom of the first after an RBI single into centerfield by Chantz Mack allowed Dale Carey to score from second to cut the deficit to 2-1, but against freshman starter Zack Tillery, who was making his first career start, the Canes were unable to get any momentum.
“Our problem was simple. Everyone just kept hitting under the ball,” Mack said. “It was just contagious. Just fly ball after fly ball out. It’s disappointing.”
The Eagles scored another run in the seventh, after Alex Diaz got on first after a payoff pitch got away from Salas in the dirt. Florida Gulf Coast got back-to-back hits off Adam Sargent, the final being an RBI single by Ryan Gebhart.
Florida Gulf Coast added one more insurance run in the top of the ninth when an error by Perez – his second of the night – allowed Diaz to score. Perez leads the team, which is ranked next-to-last in errors within the conference, this season with 15.
Miami’s bats showed some signs of life in the bottom of the inning when Mack drove in O’Brien on an RBI single to make it 4-2. After reliever Brady Anderson walked Jarred Mederos to put runners on first and second, Perez represented the tying run at the plate. He grounded out to second base to end the game.
“It’s a huge letdown. We just came off a huge sweep of the number three team in the country,” Mack said. “The team plays hard, we just didn’t come up with it. Disappointing is the word for it.”
Despite the offensive struggles, one positive the team came away with was the performance from Salas. In his second career start, he went 6.2 innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on three hits with a career-high nine strikeouts and just one walk.
“I felt great out there. I felt like I was able to throw my fastball, my curveball, my slider, all three for strikes on any count and change speeds effectively,” he said. “I was a little wild in the first inning, wasn’t hitting my spots, but I feel like I settled down after that and was just able to pitch to the glove. I felt like I was in the zone today.”
Coming up, the Canes hit the road on Thursday for a weekend series against Virginia Tech. Despite the letdown on Wednesday, Mack believes the team just needs to get their sense of urgency back.
“We’ve got to get the intensity back up. Today it was just lackadaisical,” he said.” We just have to get ready for a big series against Virginia Tech and can’t have any more letdowns.”