The paid attendance for Tuesday night’s game was 2,435.
In the top of the ninth inning, however, the energy and roar of the crowd made Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field seem like Yankee Stadium during the World Series.
Fans were on their feet with their phones held out, looking to record a piece of history.
The man on the mound, senior Javi Salas, was just one out away from securing his place in the Miami legacy.
Salas retired 26 Villanova Wildcats in a row. The scoreboard showed no runs, no hits and no errors.
Derrick May Jr. stepped in as the pinch-hitter. The first pitch was high and outside, followed by a foul ball and a breaking strike on the outside corner.
The entire crowd went crazy, urging Salas on as he delivered the 1-2 pitch. It was a check-swing strikeout as May Jr.’s bat just crossed the edge of the plate on a curveball low and outside.
Umpire Joel Pereira ruled it strike three, and Salas pumped his fist in the air as catcher Carlos Diaz and the rest of the Hurricanes tore onto the field and mobbed the man of the hour.
Salas didn’t need to worry about run support: Villanova’s pitching simply couldn’t handle the Miami lineup. The Canes scored 17 runs on 12 hits and were aided in part by three Wildcat errors.
The home run trend continued for Miami as well.Brad Fieger nailed one in the sixth inning off reliever Kagan Richardson over the left field fence. Zack Collins, making his first start at catcher on Tuesday, hit a double with the bases loaded in the seventh to score three runs.
David Thompson added three RBIs with a single in the first and a two-run double in the fourth.
Coach Jim Morris began cycling out the starters with the bench players during the five-run sixth inning. Cynics might wonder why Morris would risk the perfecto with the substitutes in, but they made huge contributions in the field.
Jacob Heyward, who came into left field for Tyler Palmer, made two huge inning-ending catches to preserve the magic. Heyward leapt for what could have been a double off the bat of Connor Jones in the seventh, and made a diving catch in left off Donovan May’s bat in the eighth.
With Salas’ perfect game hanging in the balance, the Miami defense echoed the words of Gus Sinski to Billy Chapel in “For Love of the Game.”
“We’re gonna be awesome for you right now!”
Even after a night he’ll never forget, Salas showed why he’s a team leader and senior captain.
“My defense played great behind me, I owe all the credit to them,” he said. “And Zack Collins and [pitching coach] J.D. [Arteaga] called a great game. I was in sync with them the whole time.”
Salas, fortunate to get through nine perfect innings, hopes the win will build momentum for Miami.
“You know it’s just one of those things where I had it tonight, and I felt good and a little bit of luck and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “And I’m just so happy that we were able to get back in the win column, that was the most important thing.”
It was the second perfect game in Miami history. Kevin Sheary threw the other on March 14, 1987.
Sheary was one of the heroes of the 1985 National Championship team, and he got the start during the final College World Series game against Texas.
Wednesday night’s series finale was a bit of an afterthought, but nonetheless a character-building win for the Hurricanes.
Palmer hit a two-run triple in the sixth just past the diving Connor Jones in center to give the Canes a 3-2 lead which they wouldn’t relinquish.
Miami pulled away to win 7-2, sweeping the Wildcats and improving to 7-5 this season.
Dale Carey hit his third home run of the year in the eighth inning.
The Canes have not recorded an error in three of their last four games. They begin ACC play this weekend against the Boston College Eagles at home.
First pitch on Friday is at 7 p.m. Saturday’s game will also get underway at 7 p.m., and first pitch on Sunday is set for 1 p.m.