Alex Toral, last year’s ACC home run leader, has certainly lived up to the expectations he set after last season.
Tied with Pitt in the bottom of the 11th inning, Toral hit a laser over the right field wall to give Miami a 5-4 walk-off win Friday afternoon at Mark Light Field.
“They pitched me pretty tough, but I feel comfortable right now,” Toral said. “I know the numbers don’t show too much but I feel good right now and I like the way I feel.”
The walk-off home run was Toral’s second of the game and fifth of the season. The junior first baseman crushed a home run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Two batters prior to Toral’s first home run, shortstop Anthony Vilar scored the first run of the game on a solo home run to right field, his second home run of the season. Vilar, now batting .288, had three hits in five at bats.
After a scoreless fifth, Toral hit a two-run RBI single that allowed right fielder Jordan Lala and catcher Adrian Del Castillo to cross home plate and gave Miami a 4-0 lead. Lala reached base on a single and Del Castillo was walked by Pitt starting pitcher Billy Corcoran, who was pulled from the game after Toral’s hit with four runs and five hits through 5.1 innings.
Miami starting pitcher Brian Van Belle threw another exceptional performance. Van Belle held Pitt scoreless through six innings before he gave up two runs in the top of the seventh inning.
“He throws quality strikes,” DiMare said. “They are tough pitches to get to.”
Van Belle currently holds a 0.68 era through four starts. Aside from the one run he gave up against Florida, Pitt’s two runs were the only runs Van Belle has allowed so far this season.
“Probably the leading guy on our team in terms of how he carries himself,” DiMare said on Van Belle. “He is a guy I know a lot of guys look up to and respect. We feel very confident in Brian because he is a very controlled kid and he is extremely competitive.”
After Van Belle surrendered the two runs, freshman pitcher Carson Palmquist came in and got two outs without giving up any runs. Senior Tyler Keysor started the eight inning, but gave up a RBI double to Samuel Frontino and a RBI single to Bryce Hulett that allowed Pitt to tie the game up at 4-4.
Junior Daniel Federman pitched got the last out in the eighth and pitched two scoreless innings in the ninth and 10th. Sophomore utility player JP Gates, who batted at DH in the game, went 1-2-3 in the top of the 11th before Toral won the game for Miami.
Despite the win, DiMare stills has some concerns about his team’s ability to hit.
“We are still not clicking on all cylinders,” DiMare said. “I see a lot of guy over anxious, swinging at first pitchers and not hitting the ball hard. We are not there yet but good news is we are winning some games here. We are still fighting to try and get the lineup more comfortable.”
But both Toral and DiMare are glad to get win the first ACC game of the season.
“We are going to take this as a positive because we need something positive right now,” DiMare said.
“First ACC game, its a season within a season, and to start off 1-0 is huge,” Toral said.
Miami will face Pitt on Saturday at 7 p.m. for the second game in the series.