(Photos by Zach Beeker and Nicholas Gangemi)
The Canes continued their unbeaten start to the season despite a high-pressure ninth inning rally on Sunday.
Miami scored five runs in the sixth and withstood Milwaukee’s push in the ninth to sweep its second consecutive series to open the 2013 season. The Canes held off the Panthers for a 7-6 win to carry its undefeated record to 7-0.
“It was a good, hard-played game,” coach Jim Morris said. “I’m proud of the way the guys came back after we got down. We go into the sixth inning and scored five runs with two outs. I think that shows a lot of character. I think it’s tough sometimes when the pressure’s on, but they were able to get that done. It’s really telling of our team.”
Eight batters went to the plate for the Hurricanes in the decisive sixth inning, when senior Michael Broad hit a two-RBI double with two outs to tie the game at four. Immediately after, center fielder Dale Carey hit a two-run home run, his first of the season, that gave Miami its first lead of the game.
“I saw him pitch to Broad, he doubled up on sliders, so when I saw him throw a slider to me I thought he would double up,” Carey said of the at-bat. “I was sitting slider for the rest of the at-bat. He came fastball right up the middle, then I saw the slider again, and I sat on it and did a good job of hitting it and putting it in play.”
The Panthers struck first in the top of the second inning, when, after back-to-back singles allowed by Miami starter Andrew Suarez to lead off the frame, Milwaukee left fielder Jonathan Capusso drove in the first run.
Miami evened it up in the fourth, when freshman first baseman David Thompson hit a deep sacrifice fly to right field that drove in second baseman Alex Hernandez. The RBI was the 13th of the season for Thompson, who has picked up at least one in every game so far.
Milwaukee added two in the fifth on a double by centerfielder Luke Meeteer and a sacrifice fly from second baseman Michael Porcaro.
Suarez ended his afternoon giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits in five innings of work, walking none and striking out five.
The Hurricanes came away with victories in the first two games of the series, defeating the Panthers 6-1 on both Friday and Saturday. On Friday night, Miami exploded with four runs in the first inning, and starting pitcher Chris Diaz pitched six innings of one-run ball to pick up his first win of the season.
On Saturday, shortly after the team paid homage to the late Ron Fraser, Miami also honored the legendary coach on the diamond with a victory. Javi Salas picked up his second win of the season, throwing 5.2 scoreless innings, with the Panthers unable to score a run until the eighth inning already trailing 6-0.
Miami begins their season 7-0 for the second consecutive year, having started last season 8-0. Morris talked about the importance of getting off to a good start early in the season.
“That’s what you have to do if you want to move up in the rankings. You have to win games you’re supposed to win,” he said. “We have to win these games that we’re supposed to win because we’re getting ready to get into the toughest part of [our schedule] starting conference play in two weeks. That’s a battle every weekend, anybody in the league can beat anybody.”
Carey said the hot start can also help to evaluate where the team’s strengths and weaknesses lie.
“It’s great,” he said. “You find out where you are as a team early and you find out what we can do. As of now we’ve been picking each other up, doing every little thing right.”
Miami will finish off the home stand with a slate of midweek games against Saint Thomas on Tuesday and Barry on Wednesday, before traveling up to Gainesville for their first weekend road trip of the season. The Canes have struggled against their upstate rivals of late, winless in their last 11 contests against the Florida Gators.
All games can be heard live on 90.5 FM locally or on wvum.org.