Top-ranked Hurricanes baseball falls 7-3 to Virginia, loses second series of season

Nine days ago, the Hurricanes were putting on the finishing touches on their 12th consecutive victory with a 14-2 blowout over Duke. Fast-forward to Sunday afternoon, and top-ranked Miami has now dropped four of its last six games after losing 7-3 to Virginia in front of 2,837 fans at Mark Light Field.

Typically sure-handed in the field and smart on the base paths, Miami committed an error that brought in a run and twice was picked off running the bases on Sunday.

“We could’ve won today if we hadn’t made a couple of mental mistakes [and] got a big hit, but we didn’t play well offensively, defensively and mentally in this game,” Miami Head Coach Jim Morris said.

The Canes now have as many losses (three) at home in the last five days as they had in the first eight weeks of the season. With Virginia’s 6-5 win on Friday night, Miami dropped a series to another ACC team for the first time this year, but the team still holds a four-game lead over the Cavaliers in the Coastal division.

“We’ve been playing very, very well until the last week or so. We just got to regroup … and get it back on track Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Morris said. “During this streak we have not gotten a hit when we’ve needed to.”

Virginia jumped ahead 1-0 in the second inning and then added two more in the fourth on a solo home run by shortstop Daniel Pinero and an RBI-single by second baseman Ernie Clement.

Miami quickly cut the lead to one in the bottom of the fourth on a two-run home run to left field by junior catcher Zack Collins, who was questionable to play this weekend with a head cold. The star slugger’s shot just made it over the wall for his ninth home run of the year and Miami’s first hit of the day.

The Canes (30-8, 14-5) tied the game in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI-groundout from junior second baseman Johnny Ruiz, but again fell behind in the next frame. Catcher Matt Thaiss drove in two runs on a two-out single in the seventh off righty Andrew Cabezas.

The freshman came in for junior Danny Garcia after the left-hander walked the first batter to lead off the inning. Garcia (6-3) finished the game with four runs (all earned) on six hits and three walks in 6.0 innings. Garcia struck out back-to-back batters in the first inning but didn’t record a K the rest of his outing.

The Cavaliers (26-17, 11-10) also made a pitching change in the seventh, bringing in righty Tyler Shambora for right-handed starter Alec Bettinger, who threw 6.0 innings in his first win of the year. Shambora nearly gave up a solo home run to junior third baseman Edgar Michelangeli, but 17-MPH wind blew the ball just left of the foul pole.

After striking out the first two batters of the seventh, Shambora gave up back-to-back singles to freshman designated hitter Romy Gonzalez and sophomore center fielder Carl Chester. Lefty Kevin Doherty came in for the Cavaliers and struck out junior first baseman Chris Barr looking to get out of the jam.

The Canes again threatened in the eighth after back-to-back singles by Collins and senior shortstop Brandon Lopez to leadoff the inning, but like the seventh, Miami failed to bring in a run. Collins was caught in a rundown between second and third after taking too big of a lead. Ruiz and junior left fielder Jacob Heyward both struck out to end the inning, leaving Miami trailing going into the ninth.

“They’re a good team. We just made too many mistakes. Offensively, defensively, pitching, we just didn’t play our best,” Collins said.

Virginia tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth off junior closer Bryan Garcia. Lopez first mishandled a groundball at short, allowing third baseman Justin Novak to score from second, and Pinero smacked an RBI-single to center to make it 7-3 Virginia.

The Canes next play Florida A&M at 7 p.m. on Friday in the first of a three-game series at Mark Light Field.