Romero Jr. sparks lineup, No. 3 Miami avoids sweep at Georgia Tech

Junior catcher Maxwell Romero Jr. hits an RBI single in the first inning of No. 3 Miami's 13-2 win over Georgia Tech on Sunday, May 1, 2022 at Mac Nease Baseball Park.
Junior catcher Maxwell Romero Jr. hits an RBI single in the first inning of No. 3 Miami's 13-2 win over Georgia Tech on Sunday, May 1, 2022 at Mac Nease Baseball Park. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

In the midst of a four-game losing streak, their worst of the year, the Miami Hurricanes came to life on Sunday at Mac Nease Baseball Park, taking down the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 13-2.

Miami jumped out to an early lead in the top half of the first. Junior catcher Maxwell Romero Jr. went back up the middle for a base hit, scoring sophomore third baseman Yohandy Morales, marking the 40th time Morales has scored this season.

“It’s good to see us score and get ahead early. We did a better job of being more selective and getting good pitches to drive,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said.

Despite ending the first with one run, the Hurricanes doubled their production in the second inning as they plated two. Freshman outfielder Renzo Gonzalez doubled to score junior Mike Rosario.

Later, Gonzalez came home on a throwing error by Georgia Tech shortstop Jadyn Jackson, allowing freshman outfielder Edgardo Villegas to reach with two outs, making it 3-0.

Georgia Tech responded in the third when designated hitter Chandler Simpson, holder of a top-three batting average in Division I baseball, reached base and right fielder Stephen Reid scored.

The Hurricanes (32-12, 17-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) found power in their bats in the middle innings, and finished the afternoon with four home runs.

Freshman second baseman Henry Wallen hit his first homer for Miami, sending a ball over the right field wall to increase UM’s lead to 4-1 after the fourth.

“I knew it was gone off the bat,” Wallen said. “As I got in the dugout, everybody was showing me love.”

In the fifth, Romero Jr. picked up his third home run of the series, expanding the Canes’ lead to five.

“When we get good pitches to hit, our guys can do damage with those pitches,” DiMare said. “It’s all about plate discipline and not chasing pitches out of the zone

The first pitcher to exit was Georgia Tech’s Chance Huff. The junior went five innings, giving up eight hits and five runs while picking up six strikeouts in 92 pitches.

Lefty Cameron Hill replaced Huff, who pitched an inning. Hill allowed a hit, a run and a walk while garnering a strikeout. The Yellow Jackets (27-18, 12-12 ACC) utilized five more bullpen arms the rest of the way, but could not slow down the Hurricanes, as the group allowed six more runs.

In the sixth, Miami replaced its starting pitcher in sophomore Alejandro Rosario. Struggling lately, Rosario recovered for a quality start. The 2021 Perfect Game Freshman All-American went five innings, allowing seven hits, one run and recorded six strikeouts.

“His command was really good and kept the ball down. He was able to work both sides of the plate, and that’s against a very good offensive team,” DiMare said.

Miami brought in veteran JP Gates for an out before turning to sophomore Alex McFarlane, who threw 1 1/3 innings, allowing a run before being forced to exit after taking a line drive to the chest. Freshman Gage Ziehl filled and did not give up a run.

The offense slowed, but never stopped for the Hurricanes. In the seventh, Morales hit a double off the right-center field wall to score Villegas, giving Miami a 7-1 advantage.

Georgia Tech got on the board for the second time in the seventh after an RBI hit from left fielder Tres Gonzalez.

Regardless, the Hurricanes got the run back and more in the ninth.

Sophomore outfielder Jacob Burke found room for a hit to left field, scoring Morales who finished 4-for-5 with three RBI and two doubles.

Adding to the hitting party, Rosario scored Burke with a hit and freshman Ariel Garcia homered to left to clear the bases for a 12-2 score.

Then, leadoff man CJ Kayfus hit one over the center field wall to end Miami’s offensive day with a team total of four homers.

“The home runs were big, there’s no doubt,” DiMare said.

Miami led 13-2 midway through the ninth. Sophomore closer Andrew Walters stepped in for the final outs and didn’t allow a hit or a run.

Rosario (2-2) picked up the win while Huff (3-3) was hit with the loss.

The Hurricanes’ series-closing win ended the four-game skid, yet their seventh ACC series victory wasn’t distant the day before.

Romero Jr.’s seventh home run of the season gave No. 3 Miami its first lead of the series in the third inning of Game 2 on Saturday.

But that lead didn’t last long once Georgia Tech found its hitting rhythm in the middle innings and rallied for a 7-5 win.

“They got the hits when they needed them and we didn’t,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “They hit with guys in scoring position and we didn’t. We hit some balls hard, but not enough times. At the end of the day, we didn’t come through in the clutch when we needed to.”

Romero Jr. added a two-run home run in the fourth to expand the Hurricanes’ lead to 5-2.

Georgia Tech’s lineup, however, then scored five combined runs in the fourth and fifth to sink Miami for good and pull away with a series win. The Hurricanes never scored again after Romero Jr.’s second home run.

“Honestly, I don’t remember those at-bats,” Romero Jr. said. “Right now, all I’m worried about is getting back to this winning streak we need to get back on and just start winning. The two bombs don’t mean anything because we didn’t win.”

Sophomore starter Karson Ligon, who garnered his first win in three outings in an eight-inning start versus Pittsburgh, struggled in 3 2⁄3 frames. The right-handed freshman threw 81 pitches, giving up all but one of the Yellow Jackets’ runs scored in the first five innings.

Georgia Tech center fielder Colin Hall brought in a run as a hit batsman and third baseman Drew Compton hit a two-run single. Second baseman Chandler Simpson capped off the Yellow Jackets’ scoring with an RBI triple down the right field line in the fifth.

As the Yellow Jackets’ offense gained traction, Georgia Tech pitching retired the next 10 Hurricanes batters.

Miami began to find more momentum in the seventh. Sophomore shortstop Dominic Pitelli reached base on a walk and freshman outfielder Gaby Gutierrez hit a two-out infield single.

Georgia Tech reliever Sam Crawford forced a groundout to eliminate the threat. UM managed only one hit thereafter, leaving 10 runners on base and missing out on two bases-loaded opportunities.

“It’s a rough patch and we understand that,” Romero Jr. said. “We know the team we can be. This is going to make us tougher and better.”

Pitching 3 2/3 innings in relief, Georgia Tech right-hander Logan McGuire (3-2) earned the win, allowing two earned runs on two hits. Zach Maxwell collected a second straight save, tossing 1 1/3 innings in back-to-back appearances versus Miami.

Ligon (5-3) picked up the loss, surrendering five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. The freshman kept Pittsburgh to one earned run on four hits across eight innings the week prior.

With a win in its series finale, Miami fell to 23-1 when leading after three innings. Their sole possession of first place dwindled to a two-game lead over Virginia Tech.

Miami will not play a midweek matchup due to final exams and will return to Mark Light Field for a three-game series versus North Dakota State on Friday. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.

Wyatt Kopelman also reported this story.