Canes advance to winner’s bracket final with win over South Alabama

Alejandro Rosario throws a pitch against South Alabama in the NCAA Regionals at Gators Park in Gainesville, Florida.
Alejandro Rosario throws a pitch against South Alabama in the NCAA Regionals at Florida Ballpark in Gainesville, Florida. Photo credit: Tim Brogdon/Miami Athletics

A door has opened for the Miami Hurricanes at the NCAA Gainesville Regional.

With a 1-0 win over the South Alabama Jaguars in the opening round Friday, the No. 2 seeded Canes (33-19, 20-15 ACC) advance to play South Florida in the winners’ bracket final at Florida Ballpark Saturday at 3 p.m.

The USF Bulls upset top-seeded Florida earlier Friday to send the Gators to the losers’ bracket. UF will play South Alabama Saturday at 11 a.m. in an elimination game.

Miami is now a win over South Florida away from moving on to the bracket championship, where they’d enjoy the bracket advantage of having two chances to beat their opponent in the double-elimination regional.

“We lost to Central Michigan in 2019 [in the first round of the Starkville Regional], and it’s hard coming back from that. First win is always important, luckily we got it today,” Miami catcher Adrian Del Castillo said.

A fifth-inning sacrifice fly by Del Castillo, scoring Dominic Pitelli, was enough offense for the Hurricanes in the low-scoring affair.

Starting pitcher Alejandro Rosario carried UM through his six and 1/3 innings of work. He allowed just four hits and two walks while striking out five batters and allowing no runs over 90 total pitches. Rosario improved to 6-4 on the season with an earned win in his NCAA Tournament debut.

“Alejandro was outstanding. It’s the longest we’ve had a starter go in a long time,” said Miami head coach Gino DiMare, who was especially impressed with Rosario’s changeup.

“Every time he comes out, he’s bringing that fire. His changeup progressed as the game got later,” Del Castillo said.

Daniel Federman relieved Rosario in the seventh inning and retired both batters faced. Carson Palmquist entered in the eighth and earned his 14th save of the season, a six-out close where he surrendered a walk and a hit batsman but nothing more.

The combined pitching outing was critical in a matchup where the Hurricane bats once again were quiet. UM mustered just four hits while hitting a combined .174.

Only CJ Kayfus, Dominic Pitelli, Alex Toral and Yohandy Morales got base hits, with nobody in the quartet having more than one hit and none of them going for extra bases.

“We’re giving too much life to the other team,” DiMare said on the lack of consistent hitting. “When we don’t have a good offensive inning, you can feel it.”

South Alabama’s Tyler Lehrmann and Jackson Boyd each pitched four innings and combined for four strikeouts and seven walks of the Hurricanes. But their pair limited the damage to just the singular fifth inning run. Miami left runners in scoring position in four of the first five innings but got just one baserunner aboard its final three offensive frames.

UM was error-free defensively in the win. They also held the Jaguars to just .138 hitting and to .000 with runners on base.

DiMare shuffled the lineup card ahead of the matchup, with freshman Kayfus making his outfield debut in right field while batting leadoff. Fellow first-year Pitelli batted ninth while Tony Jenkins batted eighth and played in center field.

DiMare admitted that players have been moved to unnatural defensive positions to try and increase offensive productivity. For Kayfus, that meant getting his first start in the outfield after getting only two weeks of work at the position.

“Offense has been scuffling, so we got to get that going. Once our offense gets going, watch out,” DiMare said.