No. 18 Miami may have found winning formula in series sweep of Duke

Victor Mederos pitched five innings and surrendered four hits and four runs on Saturday, April 4 against the Duke Blue Devils at Mark Light Field.
Victor Mederos pitched five innings and surrendered four hits and four runs on Saturday, April 4 against the Duke Blue Devils at Mark Light Field. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

This weekend represented the first genuine series sweep all season for the No. 18 Miami Hurricanes and head coach Gino DiMare.

Though they had defeated Wake Forest in both games played at Mark Light Field in mid-March, three conference wins could not have come at a better time amidst a season filled with various surprises thus far.

The Canes (16-8, 10-7 ACC) may have found their winning formula. Both at the plate and on the rubber, Miami is playing effective and consistent baseball. And they have the pieces for each facet of nine-inning battles.

“It’s our first sweep of the season, three-game sweep, and it sure feels good,” DiMare said. “We’ve got some catching up to do and just winning two out of three and winning the series isn’t going to be good enough. When we have a chance, we got to try to get the sweep. We’ve got to get ourselves back into position where we want to be at the end. I just thought it was a great complete game.”

Unlike multiple previous weekend battles, Miami relied on a season-high 19 hits — culminating in a team batting average of .442 — to propel itself to a series-clinching 11-5 win over Duke on Saturday night. The offensive illustration was a refreshing sight to see for many, if not all, Canes fans who witnessed a 3-1 triumph the night before.

Christian Del Castillo (47) had four hits in four at-bats on Saturday, April 3 against the Duke Blue Devils.
Christian Del Castillo (47) had four hits in four at-bats on Saturday, April 3 against the Duke Blue Devils. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

The Del Castillo brothers, while each having displayed their sizzling hitting all season, helped carry Miami’s plate attack in the win. But their individual contributions were only a small share Saturday, with four others in the lineup

Totaling a career-high four hits was elder brother Christian Del Castillo, who helped guide the team to eight scored runs in the first two innings, and Adrian Del Castillo went 3-for-5 to match his season-best. His 8-17 week was good for the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Week accolade.

The Canes supplemented paint brush precision at the plate with pin point command on the mound.

Miami entered the weekend with a shorthanded bullpen. With JP Gates (Tommy John Surgery) out for the season, Ben Wanger (elbow) set to miss another four to six weeks and Daniel Federman at least temporarily inserted back in the starting rotation after spending last week as a reliever, Miami needed longer, more effective outings from its starters.

Despite struggling in his previous starts, senior Daniel Federman struck out four batters while keeping Duke scoreless through the first five frames and holding the Blue Devils to just one run through six innings. With Miami’s latest Friday night starter in freshman Alejandro Rosario out day-to-day with a strained oblique, Federman did not show much to be disappointed over.

In his seventh start of 2021, freshman Victor Mederos got over a hurdle by notching a win Saturday. He allowed a fifth inning grand slam but rode run support and a scoreless first four frames to help the Canes clinch the series a night early.

Jordan Dubberly took the ball Sunday and picked up where Federman and Mederos left off, and despite running into trouble with no outs in the sixth, made it through five frames with just a singular run surrendered.

Freshman Anthony Arguelles stepped into the role of setup man against Duke. He allowed no runs over an inning of work Friday and kept Duke off the scoreboard again Sunday across two frames, in spite of inheriting two baserunners with no outs in the sixth.

And fans got a taste of arguably the Canes’ biggest strength both Friday and Sunday. With Miami clinging onto 3-1 leads in the eighth innings of both contests, left-handed closer Carson Palmquist was sent in and left no doubt UM would leave Mark Light Field victorious. While the Hurricane bats in the home half of the eighth made the second-year sidewinder’s job easier Sunday, Palmquist still dazzled, retiring 12 of 13 batters faced over four total innings.

Sophomore outfielder Jordan Lala bats on Sunday, April 4 against the Duke Blue Devils at Mark Light Field.
Sophomore outfielder Jordan Lala bats on Sunday, April 4 against the Duke Blue Devils at Mark Light Field. Photo credit: Treasure Wilson

Defense has also quietly become a team strength. DiMare’s team has played error-free games in three of its last four matchups. Against Duke, the Canes committed just one error compared to seven by the Blue Devils.

Overall, from first pitch to final out, Miami is answering challenges in each subset of the game.

With another series victory under their belts, DiMare and the Canes have ascended to third place in the ACC’s Coastal Division, sitting just a half a game behind Virginia Tech with a 10-7 ACC record. Another interesting road test lies ahead with the team headed up to Pittsburgh, a team that holds a 9-8 mark in conference play.

“We’re feeling good after this sweep, but we’re never satisfied with what we’re doing,” Morales said. “We always want to keep pushing ourselves and try to win every game possible. We’re not done right now. We’ve got to keep going and keep winning games and keep sweeping teams.”

If the Canes continue to play like they did during this weekend’s series, they will continue to pile up wins as the season inches closer to tournament baseball, where Miami will have a chance to become the complete squad they set out to be.

Austin Pert and Wyatt Kopelman reported this story.