Fielding is a huge problem so far for the Miami baseball team. The Canes have committed 12 errors in their first four games.
Four of those mishaps came during Wednesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Florida Atlantic Owls at Mark Light Field. Coach Jim Morris showed significant concern with the way his defense has kicked off the season.
“We’ve been playing good defense in practice, but we haven’t played [good defense in] these four games, and we gotta figure it out, you know, who’s gonna get it done defensively and make those plays,” he said. “That’s very, very important.”
The biggest error of the night came in the top of the seventh inning. After the Canes (2-2) cut the FAU lead to 1 in the bottom of the sixth, Miami freshman pitcher Cooper Hammond faced Owls centerfielder Billy Endris, 0-for-2 at that point. With two outs and a runner at second, Morris oddly elected to walk Endris.
The next batter, shortstop Stephen Kerr, hit an RBI double down the right field line. Catcher Garrett Kennedy then had Kerr in a game of pickle between second and third, but after nearly chasing Kerr back to second, Kennedy threw it away into the outfield, scoring Endris from third. Morris said it was a matter of righty versus righty in the seventh.
“Well, you know he’s hitting ninth for some reason, even though I know he’s been hot here for the first couple of games, and Cooper’s a sidewinder, a right hander that’s been very, very successful against right-handed hitters,” Morris said. “He has a lot more trouble with left-handed hitters than he does right-handers, like most sidewinders.”
Despite a .500 record, Miami’s pitching is racking up strikeouts; starter Javi Salas pitched six innings and struck out seven. Salas had a rough first inning, giving up a two-run homer to first baseman Ricky Santiago. An RBI single in the third by Tyler Rocklein put the Owls up 3-0.
The Miami lineup sputtered through the first five innings. FAU starter Brandon Rhodes had a one-hitter with two outs in the sixth. The top of the order, which has been Miami’s offensive mainstay one week into the season, came to life.
Dale Carey and red-hot leftfielder Tyler Palmer hit back-to-back doubles, cutting the lead to 3-1. David Thompson, who walks up to Katy Perry’s “Roar,” had the “eye of the tiger” as he ripped an RBI single into center, which scored Palmer. Zack Collins, hitless so far this season, reached on an error to load the bases.
The fans caught on to the rally as Brad Fieger stepped up with a chance to give the Canes a huge comeback lead, but it was not to be as he flew out to right. Miami put Carey up in the ninth with runners at the corners and two outs, but a swinging strikeout on three pitches ended the game.
Morris still shows a great deal of confidence in his team early on.
“We’ve been working hard, this team’s worked as hard as any team since I’ve been in Miami,” the veteran coach said. “We got a great attitude, and they’ve been working their butt off, so I can’t say we need to work harder, ‘cause we’re working as hard as we can.”
FAU moves to 3-1 with the win. The Owls have outscored Notre Dame and Miami 34-11 in their three wins this season. Miami takes on in-state rival Florida this weekend starting Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Light.
Morris was adamant that the team needs to worry about their play rather than the weekend.
“Well, you know I can’t worry about it being Florida. We gotta worry about us playing good, we can’t worry about who we’re playing, ‘cause it doesn’t matter who you’re playing if you don’t play good defense.”