After enduring a blowout loss to Georgia Tech on Friday night, Canes baseball rebounded on Saturday with a blowout win of their own, celebrating Senior Night with a pre-game ceremony and a dominant 10-3 win over the Yellow Jackets.
With the regular season winding down to its final games, every game – especially against conference rivals – is crucial as the 2021 ACC Baseball Championship draws ever closer.
Going into Saturday night’s action, Georgia Tech led the Coastal Division with a 19-12 conference record, and the Hurricanes were positioned a few spots lower in the division standings at 15-15. At an improved 16-15 conference record, Miami has climbed to third place in the division. They now only trail Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech, and are a half-game above Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
While the Hurricanes’ bats were alive all game long, Jake Smith was able to keep Georgia Tech inside the ballpark and off the base-paths after a night that saw 14 Yellow Jackets cross home plate.
“It starts on the mound. Great job from Jake giving us five solid innings against a very good offensive team,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said.
Smith set the tone early for Miami, pitching five scoreless frames. In his second weekend start, he punched out six hitters without allowing a walk, and only surrendered two runs and five hits. However, by the time the Yellow Jackets had cracked the scoreboard, the Hurricanes were well-positioned with a strong lead.
Georgia Tech starter Andy Archer kept Miami’s bats at bay through the first two innings of the ballgame, but didn’t have the same luck going into the bottom half of the third.
Dominic Pitelli got the offense rolling with a base hit to lead off the inning, and then proceeded to steal second to give the Hurricanes a runner in scoring position with nobody out. Anthony Vilar then reached base on an infield hit, and both he and Pitelli were plated on a double from Adrian Del Castillo. Del Castillo then scored on a single from Yohandy Morales, giving the Hurricanes an early 3-0 lead.
“Hitting is super contagious,” Del Castillo said. “Our dugout was going crazy, which is obviously a really good sign. We picked it up from there, so that was huge.”
In the fourth, five consecutive Hurricanes reached base to begin the inning. Raymond Gil led off with a walk, and he was followed by four straight singles. Tony Jenkins and Anthony Vilar each recorded an RBI on their base hits, and Miami ventured deeper into the middle innings with a 5-0 advantage.
The top half of the sixth proved to be the only real blemish of Smith’s outing. After cruising throughout much of his start, the Yellow Jackets pounced on him in the sixth and recorded two hits to begin the inning. With two runners on and nobody out, Smith was pulled from the game and Daniel Federman was tasked with escaping the jam.
He allowed a pair of hits that drove two runs home – both of which were credited to Smith’s final line – but he wiggled out of trouble with Miami’s lead still holding strong.
The Hurricanes responded in the bottom half of the seventh with a four-run frame that blew the game wide open. The biggest hit of the rally came off the bat of Jenkins, who drilled a ball down the left field line for a double to score Pitelli and Jacoby Long.
The newly-established six-run lead was the largest of the series for the ‘Canes, but that mark was quickly outdone in the eighth when Miami reached double-digits in scoring off of an RBI hit from Jordan Lala.
In the late innings, Spencer Bodanza and Carson Palmquist assumed the pitching duties as the ‘Canes looked to secure the win and even the series. Bodanza pitched the seventh and eighth and recorded one strikeout, while Palmquist handled the ninth and punched out two hitters in a quick eleven-pitch inning to shut the door on the Yellow Jackets.
“For all of [the seniors], they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives, but it’ll mean a lot more if we can win the series because we’re fighting right now,” DiMare said. “We’re fighting for some extension to the season. Tomorrow is a big game, and it’ll mean a lot if we can come out with a series win.”
The Hurricanes and Yellow Jackets are set to play their series finale Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. As the Canes look to capitalize on a chance to improve their place in the division and conference standings, Jake Garland hopes to neutralize Georgia Tech’s offense and give the Miami bats a chance to stay afloat and run away with a series victory.
Moving into their final week of the regular season, the Hurricanes will play one last game at Mark Light Field versus FAU on Tuesday before going on a three-game road trip to play the Louisville Cardinals in Kentucky from May 20 through May 22.