No. 2 Miami avoids sweep, holds off No. 21 Virginia Tech 8-5

Junior catcher Maxwell Romero Jr. drives in a run in No. 2 Miami's 8-5 win over No. 21 Virginia Tech on Saturday, April 16, 2022 at English Field.
Junior catcher Maxwell Romero Jr. drives in a run in No. 2 Miami's 8-5 win over No. 21 Virginia Tech on Saturday, April 16, 2022 at English Field. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

Losing the first two games of a conference series for the only time this season, Miami baseball neared the end of its trip to Blacksburg, Virginia, in unfamiliar territory.

But seven unanswered runs scored put the No. 2 Hurricanes back in the win column in an 8-5 victory over No. 21 Virginia Tech on Saturday at English Field.

“We were caught up in this moment right now where we got beat up pretty good in the first two games,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “It can jolt you mentally. This game will knock you down, but you have to refuse to be knocked out. There are a lot of blows that you’re going to take throughout the season. I wanted to see what our players are made of.”

Junior catcher Maxwell Romero, Jr., now with nine multi-RBI contests this season, ignited the Hurricanes’ scoring with a two-run single in the third inning. The Vanderbilt transfer then drove in a run in the fifth, expanding the margin to 3-1.

“I knew they didn’t want to face Yoyo,” Romero Jr. said. “So, I wanted to remind them that they didn’t want to face me. I squared the ball up and got the run in.”

The other part of UM’s four-run burst in the fifth involved a three-run double from sophomore shortstop Dominic Pitelli, who recorded his first set of RBI in five games.

Sophomore right-handed reliever Alex McFarlane, who filled sophomore starter Alejandro Rosario in the fourth, held the Hokies to without a hit and struck out three batters across 1 2/3 innings.

Miami (28-8, 14-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) capitalized on a 10-hit afternoon, while Virginia Tech (23-9, 9-7 ACC) failed to score more than one run before the seventh inning.

With two straight outs recorded in the seventh, sophomore outfielder Jacob Burke added his sixth home run as a Hurricane.

“We were able to capitalize on some big hits,” DiMare said. “We added some insurance home runs that were the difference in the game and we needed them because they came back.”

The Hokies responded with a grand slam from shortstop Tanner Schobel, who ranks ninth in the ACC in home runs, in the seventh, slicing the Canes’ lead to 7-5. Freshman reliever Gage Ziehl allowed his third home run in 19 total appearances.

In the ninth inning, however, Miami added its exclamation point.

As part of expectations held for a majority of the season, leadoff hitter CJ Kayfus homered to left field.

Virginia Tech never responded, despite scoring 25 runs across the weekend’s first two contests as the ACC’s leader in home runs and batting average. Sophomore closer Andrew Walters collected four strikeouts in a two-inning save, his 12th of the season to hold onto the ACC’s most.

For the Hokies, no one other than right fielder Nick Biddison managed more than one hit. Virginia Tech pitching gave up seven two-out RBI to Miami, which hit a weekend-best 10-for-36.

Rosario pitched a one-run start in 4 1/3 innings, but McFarlane (3-1) was credited with the win. Virginia Tech’s Jordan Geber (0-1) picked up his first loss of the season.

Miami will be back on the diamond Tuesday when it hosts Bethune-Cookman of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, owning the all-time series 40-6. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.

“One thing that we kept talking about was being a team no matter what happens,” Romero Jr. said. “Fourteen wins in a row is awesome. Two losses didn’t sit well with us, but we have each other’s backs, which is all that matters.”