It was a humbling weekend for the Hurricanes after getting swept by the Pittsburgh Panthers, but the Canes found themselves in the win column Wednesday evening in their return to Mark Light Field.
While a sluggish Miami offense kept the Eagles within reach all game long, the Hurricanes ultimately pulled away with an exhilarating walk-off win in the bottom half of the ninth inning.
With one away and a runner on second in the final frame, second baseman Anthony Vilar delivered the game-winning base hit to bring CJ Kayfus in to score and conclude matters in Coral Gables with a 3-2 win for Miami.
“The emotion was great. We didn’t expect to be this tight into the game in the late innings but baseball is baseball,” Vilar said. “After that hit, I just saw [Alex] Toral all the way out there with me, waiting to go into the outfield to pile up there and have a good time.”
A little Mark Light Magic on a Wednesday night…
SIGN. US. UP!!! pic.twitter.com/CJNMjci6DA
— Canes Baseball (@CanesBaseball) April 14, 2021
Despite the low-scoring affair, the Miami bats were aggressive early, putting a run on the board in the top half of the first to give the Canes an early lead. Jordan Lala opened the game with a single to short and then advanced to second base on an error. Two batters later, Lala was plated on an RBI knock to centerfield from Christian Del Castillo.
However, Eagles starting pitcher Tyler Tipton was able to settle down and keep the damage to a minimum throughout the remainder of his start, only allowing one additional run to be scored through 6.2 innings of work. Miami scored its second run in the fourth inning off of a long ball from Alex Toral.
On the mound for the Hurricanes, Miami head coach Gino DiMare turned to a trio of arms to split the pitching duties. Jake Smith started the game and pitched 2.1 innings before being pulled from the game and relieved by Andrew Walters. Smith left runners on the corners prior to being switched, and a wild pitch from Walters plated FGCU’s first run of the game.
Going into the fifth, Miami’s re-established one-run lead dissolved as quickly as it was earned. FGCU outfielder Brian Ellis took a page out of Toral’s book and went yard to tie the contest at 2-2. The fifth inning was Walters’s last and, despite surrendering the lead for the Canes, he recorded a career-high seven strikeouts.
The game for the Hurricanes was left in the hands of Daniel Federman, who pitched four shutout innings to drown out any rally attempts for the Eagles. He faced the final 13 hitters of the game and gave up only three hits without walking a single batter.
The Canes weren’t able to back Federman’s pitching heroics until the ninth, but they threatened to break the tie in the eighth. With the bases loaded and one away in the inning, Dominic Pitelli grounded into an inning-ending double play, spoiling a golden opportunity for Miami to break through with an offensive outburst.
After a low-pressure top half of the ninth for Federman, the Canes finally broke through and secured the 3-2 win.
“I thought our bullpen, Walters and Federman, did a great job in coming in and pitching out of the pen,” DiMare said. “At the end of the day, we’re fortunate but very happy to have the W and now we move on.”
Miami’s second game versus FGCU this season improved their overall record to 18-11, and was a much-needed bounce-back game for the Canes after dropping three in a row to Pittsburgh. T
he Hurricanes will return to Mark Light Field on Friday, April 16 to take on the Clemson Tigers for a three-game weekend series.