Mark Light Field was buzzing Sunday afternoon as UM and Georgia Tech dueled in their series finale, each looking to secure their second win of the weekend.
In a closely-battled thriller, the Hurricanes escaped with a 5-4 victory, stealing the series from the Coastal Division-leading Yellow Jackets and earning a pair of huge conference wins in the season’s home stretch.
“Without a doubt, our biggest win of the year,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “This is the kind of baseball I love being a part of and coaching, and the players I know they love being a part of. It was just so much energy.”
While the win was ultimately added to Miami’s win column, it didn’t look like that would be the case for much of the game. The Yellow Jackets grabbed their first lead of the game in the top half of the second, and by the bottom of the sixth, it had expanded to four runs.
On the mound, Miami starting pitcher Jake Garland looked sharp to start the game, minimizing the damage early and thwarting the majority of Georgia Tech’s rally attempts.
Through the first four innings, he pitched three scoreless frames and only surrendered a run in the second inning when designated hitter John Anderson plated Justyn Henry-Mulloy on a sacrifice fly.
However, Georgia Tech got the best of Garland in the top half of the fifth, chasing him out of the ballgame after Tres Gonzalez and Kevin Parada clubbed back-to-back home runs to drive home three Yellow Jackets.
Andrew Walters then handled 1.2 innings of work, registering strikeouts in four of his five outs.
Pitted against Garland on the mound was Marquis Grissom Jr., who was dominant throughout much of his start. After shutting out the Hurricanes through five innings, Miami put together a rally against the freshman pitcher in the sixth. Anthony Vilar got the offense rolling by drawing a walk, and he was moved to third after Adrian Del Castillo stroked a single to left center.
The Canes broke through and cracked the scoreboard for the first time in the afternoon on an unassisted RBI groundout to first from Christian Del Castillo.
However, Miami’s next four runs – which all came in the seventh inning – were scored in much louder ways.
The comeback Canes led off the inning with a walk against relief pitcher Sam Crawford. After a pitching change saw Zach Maxwell take the mound for Georgia Tech, Raymond Gil and Jordan Lala drew walks of their own to load the bases for Jared Thomas, who was brought in to pinch-hit for Dominic Pitelli.
Thomas struck out swinging to record the first out of the inning, but Tony Jenkins came through with a two-RBI double that was ripped down the left field line to bring UM within one. Adrian Del Castillo then plated the tying and go-ahead runs on an RBI single, sending the Miami faithful roaring in the stands.
“We knew what we had to do today, especially after Friday night. We bounced back Saturday and we bounced back today so I feel like it was just all a mindset for us,” Jenkins said. “We knew what we had to get done. We went down a little bit early, but at the end of the day, we continued to fight and we got the dub.”
After Spencer Bodanza handled the seventh for the Canes, the final two innings of the ballgame were placed in the hands of Carson Palmquist, who delivered two shutout innings and punched out three hitters to earn his 12th save of the season.
“It’s just a huge momentum booster and exactly what we need going into Louisville and the ACC tournament,” Palmquist said. “This season’s been in a tough stretch these past couple of weeks, and this is just going to turn us in the right direction, and hopefully we get something going and make a run at it.”
Now with two additional conference wins under their belt, UM lies two percentage points behind the second-place Pittsburgh Panthers in their division with a 17-15 conference record.
As currently constructed, the Hurricanes are the seventh-highest ranked team in the ACC, and they have a chance to advance their position in the standings even more in their final series of the season next weekend versus the Louisville Cardinals.
Before then, they will take on FAU for their final midweek game of the season on Tuesday, May 18 at 6 p.m.