Erickson Guides No. 6 Canes to 6-4 Victory

April 13, 2012

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 R H E W: E. Erickson (6-3)
Hurricanes 0 0 1 0 1 0 2 1 1 6 12 1 L: J. Mantiply (4-3)
Hokies 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 0 4 10 1 S: E. Encinosa (8)

2B: S. Perez (6), M. Broad 2 (8) | R. Shaban, M. Zagunis
P. O’Brien (37), D. Carey (14), C. Mack 2 (17) | M. Zagunis 2, T. Horan

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BLACKSBURG, Va. — In a battle of Coastal Division foes under the lights in Blacksburg, Va., the Hurricanes won their series opener with the homestanding Virginia Tech Hokies by a final score of 6-4.

With two of the better pitchers in the Atlantic Coast Conference facing off to begin the series, Eric Erickson (6-3) outpitched Hokies’ counterpart Joe Mantiply (4-3) in impressive fashion. The Sarasota, Fla. native, who allowed only one earned run in his last start at English Field nearly two years ago to the day, pitched equally as well on Friday night against a talented Virginia Tech offense.

Erickson finished up another effective outing by allowing only six hits and two runs to the second-best hitting team in the conference. The Hokies, coming off a series against Boston College where they scored 24 combined runs, entered the game as one of only two teams in the conference boasting a team batting average of .300 or better (.303). Despite a tough final inning where he allowed three of his six hits, Erickson needed only 81 pitches to earn his sixth win of the season.

The Hurricanes struck first in support of Erickson, plating the game’s first run in only the third inning. Though Michael Broad flew out to begin the frame, sophomore Tyler Palmer connected for the Hurricanes’ third single of the night off Mantiply. After advancing to second on a groundout from Dale Carey, Palmer was driven in on another single, this one from senior catcher Peter O’Brien, to give the Hurricanes an early 1-0 lead.

Miami would continue to pound Mantiply through the early innings, collecting their seventh and final hit off the lefthander in only the fifth inning. With Broad on third base, Carey drove in the junior designated hitter with a big two-out hit to leftfield, extending the Hurricanes’ lead to 2-0. After a prolonged conference at the mound involving coaches, an athletic trainer and the homeplate umpire, Mantiply was pulled in favor of reliever Clark Labitan.

The righthanded reliever hit O’Brien with his third pitch to begin his outing, but induced a groundout from Brad Fieger to end the threat. With the way Erickson was pitching against a talented Hokie line-up, the Hurricanes’ 2-0 lead seemed more than comfortable.

Beginning in the third inning, the veteran southpaw set down nine straight batters before allowing his third hit of the night in the sixth. Erickson retired Hokies’ sluggers Chad Pinder (fielder’s choice) and Johnny Morales (foul out) back-to-back, however, to get out of the inning unharmed.

The Hurricanes tagged reliever Manny Martir for two more runs in the seventh. After Broad opened up the inning with his second double of the game, Palmer laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Broad to third. Martir managed a big punchout of Carey, but the Hurricanes came through in another two-out situation to increase their lead to 4-0.

Martir intentionally walked O’Brien to get to third baseman Brad Fieger, who was unintentionally walked on four pitches to load the bases. Chantz Mack then ripped the first pitch he saw into right field, driving in Broad and O’Brien for his seventh and eighth RBI’s in the last five games. Unfortunately for Head Coach Jim Morris, the Hokies would strike right back for two of their own in the bottom of the inning.

After a long layover, Erickson returned to the mound and promptly allowed three consecutive hits to the heart of the Hokies’ order. Two doubles and a single later, Tech had cut the Miami lead to 4-2. Lefthander AJ Salcines would retire the final batter of the inning to limit the damage, but the Hokies set up for an explosive eighth inning with some more timely hits that put the game’s outcome in doubt.

With Eric Nedeljkovic pitching, the Hokies reeled off back-to-back hits once again thanks to singles from Greg Ortiz and Chad Pinder. After Jarred Mederos helped load the bases by bobbling a groundball, Head Coach Jim Morris called on E.J. Encinosa to close out the game with no outs in the eighth inning. The Hokies would plate their third run on a passed ball charged to O’Brien, but Encinosa would induce two groundouts and a pop-up to get out of the jam clinging to a 5-4 lead.

The Canes would add a crucial run in the ninth inning on a miscue from the Hokies infield. With O’Brien on first, Chantz Mack struck out. On the swinging punchout, however, the ball was mishandled by Hokies catcher Mark Zagunis. As Mack attempted to get to first on the play, O’Brien took off for third from his perch at second. First baseman Brendon Hayden fired across the diamond trying to catch O’Brien, but the ball sailed past the attempted catch and O’Brien rounded third for the Canes sixth run of the game.

Encinosa returned to the mound for the ninth inning, striking out Pinder with two runners on to record his eighth save of the season, closing out a 6-4 win. The Hurricanes return to action on Saturday afternoon at English Field; first pitch is set for 2 p.m.