No. 24 Baseball Earns Thrilling Comeback Win
Blacksburg, Va. • English Field
|W||C. Hammond (4-0)|
|L||A. Perez (0-1)|
|S||B. Garcia (8)|
|Carey, D. (11), Palmer, T. (5)|
|Hayden, B., Zagunis, M.|
|Collins, Z. (1)|
|Ruiz, J. (5), Abreu, W. (16), Collins, Z. 3 (25), Zunica, B. 2 (4), Lopez, B. (15), Palmer, T. (18)|
|Wernicki, K., Keselica, S., Stoffel, T., Ceballos, M. 2, Jenco, S.|
BLACKSBURG, Va. — No. 24 Miami battled all the way back from a five-run deficit in the eighth to take an 8-7 lead in the ninth, and held on for a dramatic victory over Virginia Tech in the series opener at English Field.
Trailing 7-2 in the eighth, Miami struck for four runs off the Virginia Tech bullpen to cut the deficit to just 7-6 heading to the final inning. RBI singles from Zack Collins and Brad Zunica, as well as a sacrifice fly from Brandon Lopez, keyed the Hurricanes comeback bid and helped set up a dramatic ninth.
With the speedy Dale Carey on first after a one-out walk, senior captain Tyler Palmer laced a double into the leftfield corner off Virginia Tech’s Alex Perez to complete the comeback. An RBI single from Collins over the head of leftfielder Kyle Wernicki gave Miami an 8-7 lead, and freshman closer Bryan Garcia shut the door on his eighth save of the season in the victory.
Palmer’s clutch hit on a 2-2 curveball from Perez tied the game 7-7 with one out in the ninth.
“He got behind me 2-0, and I took it, he threw another fastball and I just missed, and I figured he was going to come back with something offspeed,” Palmer said. “I sat back and was able to drive it down the line.”
Miami scored six runs over the game’s final two innings to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
“It was a great comeback – one of the best we’ve had since I’ve been here,” head coach Jim Morris said. “The freshmen made a great effort in leading this team back, and our bullpen shut them down. It was a good team win, and a great comeback in the second half of that game from our team.”
Miami took a 1-0 lead in the top half of the second but surrendered four runs over the next two innings to fall behind early. The Hokies tagged Miami lefthander Chris Diaz for four runs, chasing the junior ace after just 4.0 innings. Despite an efficient performance from the Hurricanes bullpen, Miami struggled to generate much offense off Virginia Tech righthander Brad Markey.
The Hurricanes (19-12, 9-4 ACC) and Hokies traded runs in the second, when a sacrifice fly from third baseman Johnny Ruiz gave Miami a 1-0 lead in the top half of the inning. Collins continued his torrid streak at the plate with a leadoff triple off the padded wall in left, and plated easily on a flyball from Ruiz.
Collins’ stand-up triple was the first of his career, and was helped by heavy winds at English Field. He finished the night 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI.
“The wind played a big factor tonight. You have to use everything to your advantage,” Collins said. “I wasn’t meaning to fly balls to left, but that’s what happened, and thankfully the wind was blowing out.”
Virginia Tech (14-13-1, 5-8 ACC) would respond, getting a run back on Kyle Wernicki’s grounder to second that was deep enough to plate Brendon Hayden from third. Hayden led off the inning with a double off the wall, another basehit aided by the blustery conditions.
Diaz struggled through the frame, loading the bases on two walks following Wernicki’s grounder. But the junior lefthander showed some poise to work his way out of it, inducing a fielder’s choice from Hokie leadoff hitter Saige Jenco for the final out and holding the hosts to just one run.
The Hokies struck for three in the bottom of the third, aided by a throwing error from second baseman Alex Hernandez in the inning, to jump out to an early 4-1 lead. The error helped plate two unearned runs, including an RBI groundout from Hokies rightfielder Tom Stoffel.
Diaz loaded the bases in the fifth with no outs before exiting in favor of sophomore reliever Enrique Sosa, who managed to keep the Hokies off the board. The righthander did well to retire the first three Hokies he faced in order, keeping Virginia Tech off the board and holding the deficit to just 4-1.
The Hurricanes scraped across a run in the sixth on an RBI single from freshman Willie Abreu that plated pinch hitter Sebastian Diaz from second. Diaz, who led off the inning with a walk, advanced to second on a bunt from senior Tyler Palmer and scored easily on Abreu’s single up the middle.
Miami’s freshmen combined for six of the team’s 11 hits and six RBI.
“I feel like the freshmen on this team see ourselves as just another guy,” Collins said. “We’re all one team, so we go in there and do our best to help our team win the game. We did a great job tonight.”
Morris said he was proud of the way his younger players fought back in an uphill battle.
“I have a lot of confidence in them, because they have a lot of confidence in themselves,” Morris said of his freshmen . “In those big situations as a player, you have to want to be up to bat and come through. They’ve been able to do that for us.”
Sosa pitched two scoreless innings, but the Hokies struck for two runs off Miami lefthander Danny Garcia and another off Sam Abrams to take a 7-2 advantage in the seventh. An RBI triple from Tech third baseman Miguel Ceballos snapped the Miami bullpen’s scoreless streak of 19.1 innings dating back to March 24.
Miami came up with four runs in the eighth to cut into the deficit. Back-to-back singles from Palmer and Abreu gave Miami runners on the corners, and an RBI single from Collins gave Miami its first run of the inning. Ruiz walked to load the bases, and pinch hitter Brad Zunica came up with an opposite-field single to plate both Abreu and Collins to cut the Virginia Tech lead to 7-5.
Lopez’ sacrifice fly to center capped the scoring, as Miami was down to its last three outs trailing 7-6.
Ninth-inning heroics from Palmer (RBI double) and Collins (RBI single) gave Miami a one-run lead, and Garcia retired Jenco on a strikeout for the final out of the game.
“That first game is important in winning series on the road. It’s a big thing for us,” Morris said. “We have two more outstanding starting pitchers for us the next two days, so we have to be ready to play.”
The Hurricanes return to English Field for game two of its series with Virginia Tech Saturday, April 5. First pitch for the game, slated for radio broadcast on WVUM 90.5 FM, is set for 2 p.m.
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