Tresgallo Clinches Series for No. 13 Miami
April 8, 2012
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — This one had it all.
Over five and a half hours after the Hurricanes’ Saturday night contest against No. 3 North Carolina was originally slated to begin, freshman Esteban Tresgallo knocked his third career homerun around the foul pole in left field for a walk-off shot in the bottom of the fourteenth inning, lifting the Canes to a 4-3 victory.
“It feels great of course,” Tresgallo said after the game. “I was trying to get on top of the ball, and I hit it pretty good. It snuck out.”
Not one of the 3,189 fans in attendance at Alex Rodriguez Park was more thankful than Head Coach Jim Morris, who saw his team squander multiple late-inning opportunities in a variety of disappointing twists and turns. The team left 17 runners on base, only three shy of the program record.
“If you lose a game like this it kills you,” Head Coach Jim Morris said. “Because we just had so many chances to win.”
Then came Tresgallo’s slice of brilliance in the final inning, a fastball from Tar Heels’ shutdown reliever Michael Morin just cleared over the 330-foot marker in left field. The hit, Tresgallo’s first of the game, clinched the game and the series for the Hurricanes. What next?
An obligatory bunny-hop into the welcoming arms of his frenzied teammates at homeplate, of course.
“It’s incredible. Everybody was super excited,” Tresgallo said. “We beat a great team, UNC is a great team. We have to keep it up.”
Overshadowed by Tresgallo’s shot was another stellar performance from the team’s pitching staff, which managed to limit the Tar Heels offense to eight hits and only three runs in 14 innings of work. Junior righthander Eric Whaley, who started the game for the Hurricanes, pitched seven strong , needing only 93 pitches to get through his outing while allowing only two runs.
“[Whaley] pitched outstanding,” Morris said. “They were aggressive out of the shoot to get their two runs, but after that I thought he pitched very well.”
Morris turned to starter-turned-closer E.J. Encinosa for the game’s final outs of the ninth with two runners on base and his team sporting a 3-2 advantage. Though a passed ball on a broken slider tied the game up, Encinosa’s potential one inning turned into two. Then three. Eventually, Encinosa stepped off the field for the last time having retired 18 batters in a row through six innings of work.
The Miami, Fla. native, who was a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American bullpen selection in 2010, joined the starting rotation as a sophomore in 2011. Though he’s back to the bullpen for his junior campaign, the flamethrower got back to last year’s form by throwing 75 pitches on the mound Saturday night.
“I was expecting my normal gig, just that one inning,” Encinosa said with a smile. “But it’s fun to get some innings in. I needed to get some work in.”
Early on, it looked like he wouldn’t have the opportunity. After both teams had taken batting practice and the stadium stands began to fill up, rain came pouring down on the grass at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. Players helped move the tarp onto the playing surface while fans rushed for cover under the concourse, as first pitch was delayed until 8:20 p.m.
Once the game finally got going, it was the Tar Heels who struck first on Saturday night, tagging Whaley in the very first frame on quick back-to-back hits. After allowing a hard-hit double to Chaz Frank on the second pitch of the game, Hurricanes starter Eric Whaley gave up an RBI single through the right side of the infield to Tommy Coyle that plated Frank from second. In a matter of moments, the Tar Heels had replaced their offensive struggles from Friday night with a 1-0 advantage.
Whaley managed to limit damage in the first, however, even after allowing a follow-up single that gave North Carolina runners on the corners with no outs. The junior righthander induced a fielder’s choice, sacrifice fly and a groundout to get out of the inning with his team only down 2-0.
After a 14-hit barrage on Friday night, Miami’s offense sputtered until the later innings, capped off by Tresgallo’s game-winning bomb. Without stellar pitching performances from Whaley and Encinosa, he might never have had the chance.
“The real deal is long-term consistency,” Coach Morris said. “I think we’re doing a good job this wekeend, and you just have to be solid everyday. It’s not a sprint, it’s a thing that takes time to get where we want to be at the end of the season.”