Miami Hurricanes Baseball: Miami Sweeps North Carolina with 7-4 Comeback Win

In the middle of the fifth at every game at Mark Light Filed now, the legendary PA announcer Jay Rokeach announces the time for fans to engage in the “High Five Fifth Inning.” While this fun tradition usually occurs in the middle of the fifth, the 3,125 in attendance Sunday afternoon shared plenty of high fives in the bottom of the fifth too.

After a slow start to begin the game, the Miami Hurricanes exploded in the fifth for five runs which was just enough as they swept No. 9 North Carolina with a 7-4 victory.

“This was just a huge weekend because North Carolina is a real talented club,” Coach Jim Morris said of his team’s sweep and victory. “We played very well this weekend and our guys fought back in every game when they got behind. It was a team effort and it was real fundamental baseball and we just played great.”

While that middle frame certainly got the fans clad in orange and green out of their seats, the start both on the mound and the plate did not. Miami starter Danny Garcia struggled with his command early on and in the second, that finally came back to bite him. After he allowed a single and a walk, Zack Gahagan laced a single of his own into left field to give the Tar Heels an early 1-0 lead. After yet another walk, UNC leadoff man Brian Miller roped a double down the left field line to bring in two and put the Heels up 3-0.

After not managing much at the dish in the first two innings, the Hurricanes were finally able to get something going in the third as a Carl Chester single was bracketed by walks to Randy Batista and Zack Collins. With the bases loaded and two outs, Jacob Heyward came to the plate looking to deliver the jumpstart Miami needed, but struck out swinging to end the rally.

In the fourth with Garcia still on the mound, the Tar Heels threatened to blow the game open as they also loaded the bases with two outs. With Miami’s lefthander struggling to find the plate, Morris had seen enough and brought in redshirt freshman reliever Keven Pimentel. The big righthander induced a groundout from cleanup hitter Logan Warmoth and kept the Canes unscathed in the fourth.

While Miami could not put together another rally in the fourth, just like Friday night the Canes could not be stopped in the fifth. Batista walked, Chester singled again and Barr also walked to load the bases with no outs and one of the most dangerous hitters in the country coming to the plate. While Zack Collins seemed like the fitting hero, Miami’s catcher struck out to bring Heyward up in another crucial situation. This time, the junior left fielder delivered.

On a 2-1 pitch from UNC reliever A.J. Boguski in for starter Jason Morgan, Heyward smoked one over the head of Tyler Ramirez in center field to score Batista and Chester, cutting the deficit to 3-2.

“I came up a few times before that with runners in scoring position and didn’t get it done,” Heyward said after the game. “I made a few adjustments with my swing and shortened my swing and just was able to put the ball in favor there.”

With Barr on third after the clutch hit, the junior scored on a wild pitch uncorked from Boguski to tie the game up at 3-3. After Heyward advanced to third on the same play, Johnny Ruiz executed the sacrifice fly to perfection as he lifted one to right-center to score Heyward and give the Hurricanes a 4-3 lead. Willie Abreu would drive Brandon Lopez in with single to left later in the inning to complete the rally and give the Miami bullpen a 5-3 lead.

With their early deficit eliminated, freshman Andrew Cabezas gave the Canes everything they needed in more as he shut down the Tar Heels for his second consecutive inning in the sixth. In the seventh, the freshman ran into a bit of trouble as the UNC put runners on he corners with just one out and Cabezas was pulled in favor of Frankie Bartow. The Hurricanes setup man worked out of the jam inducing a popout and picking up a strikeout to end the threat.

Miller had an RBI double for the Tar Heels in the eighth, but the Canes added some insurance as they scored two on a walk and passed ball in the bottom half of the inning. The rally included Chester reaching base for the fifth time as he walked to cap off an afternoon in which he also recorded three hits and a reach on an error. Despite struggles last year and a slow start to this season, he has become a dangerous hitter and on-base guy for Morris and the coaching staff at the top of the lineup.

“He had a really good weekend,” Morris said of Chester after his monster 3-for-4 performance. “For him it’s just being selective at the plate and getting better pitches to hit. For me he is a line drive guy and he has to get on base, and maybe hit a homerun or two, but to me he’s now learning that part of the game.”

Bryan Garcia closed it out in the ninth and Miami wrapped up a 7-4 victory to sweep North Carolina and clinch their 18th win in their last 20 games. While the Canes are certainly one of the hottest teams in the country, their comeback ability may be an even bigger takeaway after this series. The Tar Heels came in with a 16-2 record when scoring first and in this series, they did just that. Despite that stat, Miami came back in each and every game and were able to sweep a talented team in North Carolina.

The Hurricanes will now take their show on the road as they head to Fort Myers for a midweek game against FGCU and travel to chilly South Bend for a weekend series with Notre Dame. The way this team is playing the Hurricanes and their faithful will likely be sharing plenty of high fives over the next few weeks.