No. 24 Miami Wins 8-5 Behind Big Nights From Toral, Reyes

No. 24 Miami Wins 8-5 Behind Big Nights From Toral, Reyes

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Freshman first baseman Alex Toral recorded his first home run as a Hurricane, and No. 24 Miami held off visiting Rutgers, 8-5, to capture its opening series Saturday night at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.

A seven-run third inning propelled the Hurricanes to victory and helped the hosts overcome a slow start.

The Scarlet Knights (0-2) plated single runs in each of the first two innings, but the Hurricanes came storming back in the third when they sent 12 batters to the plate and recorded five hits, two walks and a hit batter.

Rutgers cut the lead as close as 8-5, but Miami’s bullpen held on to secure the 11th straight series win over the Scarlet Knights. 

Junior closer Andrew Cabezas earned his first save of the season by pitching the final 1.2 innings in front of 2,750 fans.

The big hit in the decisive third came off the bat of Toral, one of the top-rated power hitters in his high school class, who joined elite company with his homer.

With Miami (2-0) ahead by a run, Toral crushed a two-strike pitch from Rutgers starter Serafino Brito well over the fence in right for a three-run shot to push the advantage to 6-2. 

“Honestly, [Brito] was throwing a lot of sliders in my first at bat. I was going into my second at bat seeing slider, and I got a good piece of it.”

Toral became the first Hurricane since Zack Collins in 2014 to connect on a home run for his first collegiate hit and only the second since 2006, when Cleveland Indians All-Star Yonder Alonso accomplished the feat.

“The energy this ballpark had, opening series, was just something different,” Toral said. “I appreciate the fans out here and what they do for us.”

Brito (0-1), who allowed just a hit and a walk in his first two innings, was chased when he hit Raymond Gil, allowed an RBI double to Michael Amditis and walked Freddy Zamora in the three at bats following Toral’s blast.

Sophomore righthander Gregory Veliz struggled with command in 3.0 innings. He allowed two hits, walked five and hit one batter. He struck out five and threw 84 pitches before redshirt senior Cooper Hammond entered in relief to start the fourth.

After missing most of the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, Hammond (1-0) tossed 1.2 innings of relief to pick up his first win since May 23, 2015.

Miami added a run in the fifth on the first career hit from freshman Tony Jenkins. With runners on the corners, Jenkins connected on an infield single to third that scored Toral, who doubled to open the inning.

Junior Danny Reyes, who powered Miami with a double and two-run home run on Opening Day, continued his hot start at the plate with a 3-for-4 night that included two doubles.

“He’s somebody you can learn from,” Toral said of Reyes. “He has a good mindset going into each of his at bats. You can pick his brain a little bit and get to know a little more about hitting and the way he does it.”

Amditis went 2-for-4 and Toral finished 2-for-3.

“I feel like this team has great chemistry,” Toral said. “A lot of us grew up playing together. Greg, Mike, all these guys, I played with each of them along with a few of the freshmen. It’s something we continue to develop and get stronger and stronger as a team.”

Cabezas entered in a two-on, one-out jam but got two flyball outs to escape any damage and hold Miami’s lead. Jeremy Cook made his Miami debut and junior Frankie Bartow tossed 1.2 scoreless innings of relief.

The Hurricanes go for the series sweep Sunday afternoon. First pitch for the contest, slated for broadcast on ACC Network Extra and 790 The Ticket, is slated for 1 p.m.