Miami Hurricanes Baseball: Miami Stays Hot, Beats North Carolina 10-4
If you are a Top 25 ACC team right now, coming to take on the red-hot Miami Hurricanes at Mark Light Field probably isn’t the smartest thing to do.
Following series wins against No. 4 Louisville and No. 17 Clemson, the Canes demolished the No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels 10-4 with an offensive explosion and a phenomenal outing from Thomas Woodrey in the first of three games at Mark Light Field.
“It was a big win for us,” Coach Jim Morris said after the game.” North Carolina is a talented club and Gallen has really good stuff, but we were able to get a lot of hits off him tonight. Overall I thought we played really well and it was great to see Woodrey locate out their tonight.”
Playing their first game as the No. 3 team in the country, the Hurricanes and Woodrey showed they certainly were worthy of that lofty ranking. After giving up an unearned run in the first and leaving the bases loaded against Tar Heels’ ace Zac Gallen, the Canes’ hot streak looked poised to come to an end, but Miami quickly showed they had other ideas. On the hill, Woodrey began a stretch in which he retired the next 12 batters he faced and got some support at the plate thanks to the hustle of Carl Chester. After Edgar Michelangeli doubled and advanced to third on a Peter Crocitto flyout, the speedy center fielder showed off his wheels with an infield single to shortstop to score Michelangeli and tie the game up at 1-1.
In the top of the fifth, Woodrey found himself in a bit of trouble, but turned the momentum of the game around as he got out of the two-out bases loaded jam to set the stage for an explosive Miami rally at the dish. The Hurricanes unleashed a seemingly endless stretch of hits with Zack Collins’s crushed two-RBI double highlighting the rally. Jacob Heyward and Johnny Ruiz followed immediately with RBI singles of their own and suddenly the Canes found themselves up 5-1 after batting around.
With Woodrey continuing to deal on the mound, the Hurricanes gave their southpaw more than enough insurance and put the game out of reach in the sixth. Chris Barr scored on a wild pitch and Brandon Lopez followed with a decisive two-RBI single to send the roaring crowd of 3,243 into a frenzy as Miami took an 8-1 lead.
“We have been swinging it well lately and while we left a few too many runners on base early in the game, we were able to come back and score those runs later,” Zack Collins said of the team’s offensive performance.
With plenty of offensive support behind him, Woodrey finished his outing in the eighth with two runners on, but had a fantastic outing after struggling the past few weeks. Pimentel allowed the two runners to score, but Miami’s lefthander finished his 8.0+ inning outing allowing just four hits and only two earned runs. Considering how the lefty’s year started, it seems now he has finally started to turn it around.
“I changed a couple small things in the bullpen, but the biggest change for me has been mental,” Woodrey said of his recent improvement. “I have to tell myself that I am the same pitcher that I was last year because a couple tweaks in the bullpen only go so far, so I just am happy to come out here and compete and help my team win.”
The Canes added two runs in the eighth after a two-RBI double from Abreu and the Tar Heels scraped across a run of their own in the ninth, but it was nowhere close to enough as Miami wrapped up their fourth straight victory.
The way this team has been playing of late has warranted their inclusion into the conversation as national title contenders. Winning 16 of 18 games is impressive in itself, but to think plenty of those wins have come against Louisville, Clemson and now North Carolina is even more noteworthy. Miami’s 14-3 loss at Virginia Tech back in early March was definitely an ugly one, but since that time the Hurricanes have lost just once and that defeat came by just one run to the talented Cardinals. While the season might not have started the way Jim Morris and his coaching staff may have wanted, they are certainly hitting their stride now.
“It’s a long season and you have to have a really good effort every day and be able to bounce back and do the little things and make the big playes to have the record we have right now,” Morris said of his team’s play the past few weeks. “I see these guys getting better and against great teams and great pitching too so that’s really good to see.”
Considering how well Miami’s back end of the rotation has pitched, the Canes could remarkably put together their third straight series win over a Top 25 opponent and continue to state their case for a Top 3 or 4 national seed come tournament time. That journey to Omaha seems far away, but the way this team is playing at the moment, they sure look hungry to lift that trophy come June and I would not want to be standing in their way.