Canes hold on for fourth ACC series win behind Walters’ eighth save

Sophomore pitcher Andrew Walters pitches at the top of the ninth inning of Miami’s game versus the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at Mark Light Field on March. 25, 2022.
Sophomore pitcher Andrew Walters pitches at the top of the ninth inning of Miami’s game versus the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at Mark Light Field on March. 25, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Ahead by four runs after the top of the seventh inning, a series-clinching win drew closer for the No. 17 Miami Hurricanes until Duke didn’t go away on its home field.

But after slicing Miami’s lead to one, no one managed more than a hit on closer Andrew Walters in a 4-3 Hurricanes win Saturday afternoon at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

“When you have a chance to win the series, you have to do whatever you can to do that,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “It makes a coach look very good, let’s be honest. When you can go to a guy as good as he is and as dominant as he is, it’s not a tough decision.”

Following a two-run home run from Duke shortstop Alex Mooney, Walters took the mound and struck out three of six batters to earn a conference-high eighth save of the season. No other Hurricanes reliever holds more strikeouts than the sophomore’s 28.

“The coaches and the team trust me,” Walters said. “Every time I go out there, I plan on doing my job, getting outs and putting up zeros.”

Walters, who has now garnered saves in four of his last five relief outings, kept the Blue Devils from threatening further by forcing a groundout once Duke left fielder RJ Schreck doubled in the eighth.

“You have to keep the nerves down and do your job,” Walters said. “Nothing really changes in that spot. You still have to find a way to put a zero on the board.”

Miami (20-6, 9-2 ACC) began its scoring earlier than its win over Duke (12-15, 3-8 ACC) on Friday.

Sophomore shortstop Dominic Pitelli, who crushed a game-winning grand slam the prior night, drove in sophomore outfielder Jacob Burke on a two-out double in the fourth. A pair of home runs in the sixth inning from sophomore third baseman Yohandy Morales and Burke, now enjoying his longest hitting streak of the season at seven games, moved the Hurricanes ahead, 3-0.

Another spark came the seventh, when sophomore first baseman CJ Kayfus added a one-out RBI single. The Wellington, Florida, native owns a team-most 10 multiple-hit games, finishing 3-for-5 with one walk.

Freshman starter Karson Ligon kept Duke scoreless on four hits and struck out five hitters, despite also surrendering five walks. With an ERA of 1.65, Ligon retains the sixth-lowest ERA in the ACC.

Closing out its three-game set Sunday, Miami will attempt to collect its second consecutive conference series sweep as it continues its best ACC start since 2016. First pitch is scheduled for noon.

“We found a way to win because we pitched and defended,” DiMare said. “And then we had a couple big hits, couple home runs.”