Home run hat trick drives Canes past Wolfpack to take series finale

Despite having to trudge through five scoreless innings on offense, a home run barrage for the Hurricanes proved to be the deciding factor in Miami’s 6-4 series win over North Carolina State Sunday afternoon.

An offensive outburst in the top half of the sixth inning allowed the Canes to put a crooked five runs on the board over the Wolfpack heading into the late innings. After trailing for much of the game, UM clubbed four home runs between the sixth and seventh innings, three of which came in dramatic back-to-back-to-back fashion.

“It was nice to see us have a big inning because we haven’t had too many big innings and put a bunch of hits together this year and it was really nice to see us hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Miami head Coach Gino DiMare said. “We need to get some more power and thump in our lineup, which is something we should have, so it was good to see that today.”

However, this weekend’s series finale looked bleak for the Hurricanes for much of the contest. NC State starting pitcher Matt Willadsen was dealing through his first five frames, punching out four Hurricanes, walking one and only allowing four hits. On the mound for Miami was Victor Mederos, who was chased after throwing 4.2 innings on 54 pitches. Mederos was only able to record one strikeout and allowed three earned runs on seven hits, forcing Miami to resort to the bullpen early in a come-from-behind ballgame.

Fortunately for Miami, a blanked offense busted out of its cage after leadoff hitter Jordan Lala walked and stole second base, giving UM a man in scoring position with none away in the top half of the sixth. With the applied pressure of the speedy Lala at second, Willadsen surrendered a two-run blast to Anthony Vilar. The long ball trimmed Miami’s deficit to one at a score of 3-2.

Freshman infielder Yohandy Morales proceeded to add a home run of his own to his line with a solo shot to straightaway centerfield that knocked Willadsen out of the game after five innings of work.

“I just wanted to make contact and not try to do too much,” Morales said. “It was an amazing feeling. I was pumped the whole way rounding the bases knowing I just tied the game with one swing of the bat.”

Southpaw Chris Villaman came in to relieve Willadsen, but Adrian Del Castillo ensured he received a warm welcome to the mound by greeting him with a third consecutive home run for the Hurricanes. Del Castillo’s go-ahead homer was his first on the season, and it proved impactful in establishing a lead the ‘Canes would ultimately hold and secure deeper into the game.

“It felt great to finally pull through in a great situation to give us the lead. The season hasn’t been going my way lately, but I’m not worried because if it isn’t me, my guys will pick me up,” Del Castillo said.

UM plated their fifth run on the inning off of a bases-loaded walk from Jordan Lala, adding an insurance run for the Hurricanes with the score at 5-3. Miami’s impressive offensive attack would come to an end shortly afterwards, but not before a humbling display of power and aggression at the dish completely flipped the narrative of the game.

In the bottom half of the sixth, the Wolfpack had the makings of a big rally of their own with the bags loaded, but they were left to settle for a sacrifice fly that cut their deficit in half. However, Morales quickly responded and dwindled NC State’s comeback attempt with his second home run of the game, also to straightaway centerfield. Morales’s incredible display of power earned him his second and third home runs on the season, and boosted his batting average up to an incredible .359 clip.

From the seventh inning on, Miami’s pitching staff shut the door on the Wolfpack and crushed any hopes of an offensive spark. The Hurricanes’ relief pitching cohort of Alex McFarlane, Ben Wanger, Anthony Arguelles and Carson Palmquist combined for 4.1 innings of one-run ball with six strikeouts and two hits allowed. Palmquist was able to close out the game by punching out three of the six outs requested of him and earn his fourth save of the season. Arguelles, who entered in the seventh, neutralized the Wolfpack with his 1.1 scoreless innings of work to secure the win.

“Arguelles is really settling in the role he is in for us. He’s got one of the best breaking balls on our team and he’s got great demeanor on the mound,” DiMare said. “He gets after it, throws strikes, goes after guys and he’s got a little bulldog in him.”

Miami, now 5-4, will get their next chance on the field on Tuesday, March 9 when they take on Florida Atlantic University back home at Mark Light Field.