Three-run Ninth Propels No. 21 Miami to 5-4 Win

May 18, 2012

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 R H E W: E. Encinosa (3-3)
Hurricanes 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 3 5 7 1 L: A. Cruz (7-3)
Jackets 0 1 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 4 6 4 S: A. Salcines (5)

2B: E. Martin
HR: R. Rodriguez (2), S. Perez (5) | B. Thomas
R. Rodriguez (15), S. Perez (29), D. Carey (17), B. Fieger 2 (32) | E. Martin, Dove, B. Thomas

ATLANTA, Ga. — Brad Fieger’s two-run single up the middle capped a come-from-behind victory for No. 21 Miami, who took a thrilling 5-4 decision in their series opener against homestanding Georgia Tech at Russ Chandler Stadium.

On a dreary night for baseball in Atlanta, the outcome of Thursday night’s Atlantic Coast Conference match-up looked equally as bleak for Head Coach Jim Morris late into the night. But four runs over the game’s final two innings, including a solo homerun from second baseman Stephen Perez in the eighth and the big basehit from Fieger in the ninth, gave Miami (33-18, 15-13 ACC) its sixth win in the last seven tries.

One of the most anticipated pitching match-ups of the conference season was cut short when an 85-minute lightning delay struck the Atlanta area heading into the top of the fourth. After picking up momentum with a quick and effective third inning, veteran southpaw Eric Erickson’s night was ended prematurely with the prolonged delay. Yellow Jackets’ righthander Buck Farmer stayed on, however, retiring nine of the next 11 Hurricane batters after the game resumed.

Erickson, who pitched six shutout innings in his last outing at home against Wake Forest, allowed three hits and one earned run in his brief stint. Unfortunately for the veteran southpaw, Miami’s offense was subdued by another quality start from Farmer. The junior righthander struck out eight Hurricane batters on the night, allowing three walks and only two basehits in six innings of work.

One of those hits came in his final frame, when senior Rony Rodriguez belted a monstrous homerun to cut his team’s deficit to 4-1. The moonshot to left field, which connected off the John and Mary Brock Indoor Football Facility behind the outfield wall, was Rodriguez’ second homerun of the season.

It was the Yellow Jackets (31-23, 11-17 ACC) who struck first in support of Farmer with a run in the second inning. Slugger Daniel Palka opened the frame with a single, but looked like he might be stranded at third after Erickson recorded back-to-back outs. Designated hitter Evan Martin then ripped a groundball to the right side stopped by second baseman Stephen Perez on a terrific play across his body. But an errant throw from Perez would make its way past first baseman Tyler Palmer, plating Palka as the Jackets took a 1-0 advantage.

Georgia Tech would open up the contest with a big three-run inning off reliever Vince Kossak, who entered the game after the delay. Brandon Thomas’ fourth homerun of the season made its way over the rightfield fence in the inning, plating Martin as the Yellow Jackets took a 4-0 lead. But Miami began to chip away at the Tech lead, as Rodriguez’ homerun put Miami on the scoreboard and another homerun by Perez in the eighth cut the Jackets’ lead to 4-2.

Georgia Tech reliever Alex Cruz (7-3), who began his outing ranked second in the ACC with an ERA of 1.67, quickly set down Miami after entering in a sticky situation in the top of the eighth. But with two away in the ninth and down to their last out, the Hurricanes tagged Cruz for two hits and three walks, clawing their way back in stunning fashion.

Tyler Palmer led off the frame with a bunt single, advancing to second on a throwing error by Tech third baseman Sam Dove on the play. After recording back-to-back outs, Cruz then issued a walk to Stephen Perez before allowing a bloop single to Dale Carey, trimming the lead to 4-3. With runners on the corners, junior outfielder Chantz Mack walked to load the bases. The scene was then set for Fieger, who connected on a rip up the middle that plated both Perez and Carey, as Miami took their first lead of the game at 5-4.

Eric Nedeljkovic and AJ Salcines combined for the final three outs of the game in a clean ninth inning, with Salcines picking up his fifth save of the year  by recording the final out of the game on a groundout.

The two teams will return to Russ Chandler Stadium on Friday for game two of their three-game set. First pitch is set for 7 p.m., with the game scheduled for Comcast CSS broadcast along with simulcast.