Miami battles back, edges Harvard 2-1 to even series

Sophomore infielder CJ Kayfus slides into third base during Miami's game against Harvard on Saturdy, February 26, 2022 at Mark Light Field.
Sophomore infielder CJ Kayfus slides into third base during Miami's game against Harvard on Saturdy, February 26, 2022 at Mark Light Field. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

Miami’s baseball team hadn’t lost to Harvard since 1997 until its series-opening loss Friday.

The Hurricanes entered their three-game series against the Crimson with a head of steam, having won their first five games. For the first time in its 78-year history, Miami scored at least 10 runs in four consecutive games to begin a season, scoring 45 runs in the team’s initial series with Towson, in addition to nine against Florida Atlantic Wednesday.

But instead of relying on a high load of runs to climb back into the series, Miami recovered with a 2-1 win Saturday at Mark Light Field.

“We bounced back against a good Harvard team. We had a chance to blow this thing open … We left 10 guys on base,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “As soon as we get one big hit with all of these guys on base, that’s when the floodgates are going to open.”

Sophomore starter Carson Palmquist recorded a career-high nine strikeouts, after the former All-American closer held Towson to one hit and one earned run over five innings in his first start.

Palmquist started the game strong, striking out three of the first six batters faced. The Fort Myers product continued to dominate throughout, finishing his outing with four hits and one run allowed over 5 1/3 innings.

The Miami batters started the bottom of the first on fire, scoring a quick run but leaving the bases loaded. Sophomore first baseman CJ Kayfus rocketed Williamson’s first pitch to straightaway center for his first triple of the season, and scored on a groundout.

Miami (6-1) stranded 10 runners over the course of the game after leaving eight aboard Friday.

“We all know that we can play better than we did tonight,” Morales said. “Moving on to tomorrow, we are going to work on early work and everything we did wrong and try to take it into the game [tomorrow].”

Morales, who went 3-for-4 on the night, tripled to start off the bottom of the fifth and scored on an RBI double down the right field line from Vanderbilt transfer catcher Maxwell Romero Jr.

Right-hander Sean Matson relieved Harvard starter Tim Williamson in the fourth inning, and started strong, pitching a 1-2-3 fourth inning, until the Canes woke up in the fifth.

Matson ended the game with one run allowed through four tough innings of relief, he struck out seven and allowed two hits and was tacked with the loss.

Freshman reliever Gage Ziehl relieved Palmquist in the sixth frame and escaped a jam by forcing two groundouts and striking out one. The right-hander’s outing ended with no runs allowed on no hits.

“He wanted the ball. His body language showed me he wanted it,” DiMare said. “I told him when I gave him the ball, ‘This is the guy we want you to get. He’s your guy.’”

In the top of the seventh, freshman Rafe Schlesinger took the mound for Miami. The lefty was able to fight through some initial command issues to force a double play and pop out and quickly retire the first three batters he faced.

The Canes’ bullpen bounced back after a poor showing on Friday in which it surrendered six runs.

“They love challenges,” DiMare said of Schlesinger and Ziehl. “Both guys are very impressive freshmen who are not going to back down from any challenges.”

New closer Andrew Walters took control of the eighth and ninth innings for the Canes. The right-handed flamethrower touched 97 mph as he struck out two of the last five Crimson batters to close out the Crimson (1-1). The former Eastern Florida State transfer earned his second save.

“Everybody on this team trusts Walters,” Morales said. “We knew he was going to come in and get the job done.”

Following Walters’ save and Palmquist’s second win, the Hurricanes and Crimson will meet again to determine the series victor on Sunday. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.

“Harvard is a good team. We didn’t know anything about them, but we do know,” DiMare said. “Harvard is a team that is going to do very well in its conference. They’re going to make noise after that if I had to guess. We got our hands full. We need to be ready to play tomorrow.”