Baseball Clinches Berth in ACC Championship
34-20 • 13-15 ACC
Coral Gables, Fla. • Alex Rodriguez Park
32-22 • 14-14 ACC
|E. Whaley (3-1)
|B. Farmer (8-4)
|Carey, Fieger 3, Kennedy 2, Thompson
|Dove, Hyde 2
May 16, 2013
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The Miami Hurricanes clinched a berth in the 2013 Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Thursday night, earning one of eight coveted trips to Durham Bulls Athletic Park with a 8-3 win over Georgia Tech in game one of the final regular season series for both teams.
Miami (34-20, 13-15 ACC), entering the weekend set in need of just one win to guarantee a spot in the eight-team field, had not missed the ACC Championship since joining the conference in 2004. Before a crowd of 2,487 at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, the Hurricanes ensured their ninth consecutive appearance with a commanding win over the visiting Yellow Jackets.
Inserted onto the mound due to a late injury suffered by Saturday starter Andrew Suarez, senior righthander Eric Whaley performed admirably in his first start since March 19. The Pompano Beach, Fla., native, boosted by an early surge from the team’s offense, scattered just two hits in five shutout innings. The outing, which included one strikeout and one walk, matched his longest stint of the season.
“My arm felt really good,” Whaley said after the start. “It was nice to be in that role again. That was probably the best my arm has felt in awhile.”
Thursday’s original projected starter, sophomore southpaw Chris Diaz, will take the mound Friday night against Jackets’ righthander Dusty Isaacs.
The Hurricane offense struck early off Georgia Tech ace Buck Farmer (8-4), tagging the senior for five runs on five hits in the game’s first three innings.
With junior Alex Hernandez (single) and senior Chantz Mack (walk) on base, freshman slugger David Thompson cracked a double into leftfield to open the game’s scoring. The Miami, Fla., native, who led the team with five hits last weekend against Wake Forest, roped an 0-1 offering from Farmer corralled well by Kyle Wren in left.
“He threw me a slider on the first pitch, and hung the second slider and left it right over the plate,” Thompson said.
With the hit, Thompson reached base for the 20th consecutive game, the longest stretch of any Hurricane this season. Hernandez extended his personal hitting streak to seven games with the single.
Junior first baseman Brad Fieger would add a sacrifice fly, as Miami took a 2-0 lead into the second.
After allowing a one-out triple to Tech shortstop Mott Hyde, Whaley (3-1) induced a flyout from Matt Gonzalez and a groundout from Thomas Smith to get out of the inning with no damage. The senior would successfully retire 11 consecutive batters after Hyde’s triple, pulled in favor of freshman reliever Thomas Woodrey after his most dominant outing of the season.
“It was nice to see Whaley, a senior in his last career start in the regular season, get a win,” head coach Jim Morris said.
The Hurricanes struck for three more runs off Farmer in the third, keyed once again by the top of the lineup. After Tyler Palmer and Hernandez reached via back-to-back singles, Mack advanced both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Farmer intentionally walked Thompson, but a one-out double from Fieger down the third base line plated two more runs to make it 4-0 in favor of Miami.
A sacrifice fly from Garrett Kennedy would extend Miami’s lead to 5-0 heading into just the fourth inning.
Though Tech (32-22, 14-14 ACC) would get one back on an RBI single from Zane Evans in the top of the sixth, the Hurricanes struck for two more on RBI singles from Kennedy and junior Dale Carey in the bottom half of the frame. With the infield playing shallow, Kennedy drove a Farmer pitch right up the middle, splitting the infielders for his first multi-RBI game of the season. Carey’s single through the leftside of the infield gave the Hurricanes a six-run advantage heading into the seventh.
“We had a great game, we swung the bat really well,” Thompson said. “We did really well with situational hitting, whether it was with a runner on second base or coming up with a clutch two-out hit.”
Georgia Tech responded with a two-run homerun from Hyde over the fence in left in the seventh, but strong relief showings from juniors AJ Salcines and Javi Salas clinched the opening win for the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes officially qualified for the postseason via losses from Duke and Wake Forest midway through their own game, but sealed their fate with the 8-3 decision.
“We need to go to the ACC Championship and play well, but we need to win this series,” Coach Morris said. “This is a big series for us.”
The Hurricanes will return to Alex Rodriguez Park Friday for game two with the Yellow Jackets. First pitch for the match-up, set to be televised on CSS with ESPN3 simulcast, is slated for 7:30 p.m.