Hurricanes escape with 7-6 win over St. Thomas in extra innings

The optimist would say every win counts equally and the Hurricanes are undefeated to start the season.

The pessimist would say the sky is falling – which it literally was during a 43-minute rain delay following the eighth inning – on the No. 6 Canes after they narrowly escaped with a 7-6 win against NAIA school St. Thomas in 10 innings at Mark Light Field on Wednesday night.

Oh, and the No. 1 team in the country, Florida, is coming to town for a three-game series this weekend.

Miami Head Coach Jim Morris falls in the first category.

“I think that probably comes under the definition of an ugly win, but you’ll take it any way you can,” Morris said. “We could’ve pitched better. We definitely could’ve hit better. We left too many guys on base. But at the end of the day we won.”

Miami (4-0) won in the 10th on a two-out error by pitcher Brandon Valentin – St. Thomas’s eighth pitcher of the night – when he bobbled a dribbler hit back to him by junior outfielder Jacob Heyward. Valentin couldn’t handle the ball or make an accurate throw to first base, allowing junior Christopher Barr to score the winning run from third.

“Get my butt down the line,” is what Heyward said was going through his head after Valentin’s bobble. “I was just trying to get a hit for my team. It didn’t go how I wanted to, but you know, things happen in mysterious ways.”

Miami held a small lead for most of the game until a St. Thomas three-run home run by Oscar Aguirre in the eighth put the Bobcats up 6-4.

The Canes cut the lead to one on a bases-loaded walk with two outs by sophomore center fielder Carl Chester in the bottom of the inning. Following Chester, junior first baseman Christopher Barr struck out looking – the third inning the Canes ended with the bases loaded and second time staring at the third strike. Miami left a school-record 22 runners on base.

Miami nearly lost the game on a double play in the ninth, but difficulty handling the ball by St. Thomas again saved the Canes. With one out and men on the corners, junior shortstop Johnny Ruiz hit a line drive straight to second baseman Michael Centeno. The junior stepped on second but threw a bouncer to first that Kendrick Gutierrez couldn’t pick, allowing Heyward to score from third.

Sophomore Jesse Lepore made his first career start as a Cane, but the hard-throwing righty didn’t miss many bats. Lepore gave up six hits – including a solo home run to German Morales in the third – and one walk in 4.0 innings. The Bobcats scored a second run in the third inning to tie the game on an RBI single by Jose Gomez.

The Canes opened with a two-run first on an RBI single by junior outfielder Willie Abreu and a sac-fly by junior shortstop Johnny Ruiz.

Miami made it 4-2 in the fourth on an RBI single by junior catcher Zack Collins that scored Chester.

St. Thomas (7-8) got the run back in the sixth on an RBI single by Steven Fischer.

Freshman reliever Frankie Bartow was credited with his first career win after pitching perfect ninth and 10th innings.

The Canes next play Florida at 7 p.m. on Friday at Mark Light Field.