Miami Shuts Out Notre Dame For Game 1 Win
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Perhaps Evan McKendry was paying homage to Hurricanes pitching legend Neal Heaton.
Or maybe he was just looking to help his team win its first conference series.
By any measure, the sophomore righthander got the job done in another scintillating performance, as Miami topped Notre Dame, 9-0, in the first game of a doubleheader at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field Saturday afternoon.
37 years after Heaton set the Miami single-game record for strikeouts with 23 on March 10, 1981, McKendry set a personal mark with 12 punchouts across six shutout innings to help the Hurricanes capture their third series victory of the spring.
“It was big for us,” McKendry said. “I felt good. I was getting early leads, getting ahead in counts, trying to stay consistent. I missed with a few pitches, but for the most part, I felt good. Great way to set the tone, get the win, and our bats came alive towards the end, which was awesome.”
McKendry (3-1), who had 10 strikeouts in a win over Maine last Sunday, moved up a day in the rotation to account for Sunday’s inclement forecast. He showed no ill effects of shortened rest, allowing just two hits and two walks in his third straight quality start.
The Pembroke Pines, Fla., native, who has totaled a team-high 38 strikeouts across four starts, said he thought he might rack up a high strikeout total Friday afternoon.
“I definitely feel it in the [pregame] bullpen. Some games I’ll feel better than others,” McKendry said. “But mostly it’s just, when I get on the mound, making sure I feel my pitches, stay relaxed. If I’m not feeling something, work on it a little bit in warmups and keep throwing it.”
Miami shut out Notre Dame for the second straight game, marking the first time the Hurricanes posted back-to-back shutouts since May 2015 (May 3, May 6). It was the first time UM shut out the same opponent in back-to-back games since April 2004, against Florida State (April 11, April 16).
Freshman Willy Escala provided all the offense Miami needed with his first career collegiate home run in the third inning, a solo shot off Notre Dame starter Tommy Sheehan.
Sheehan (1-1) tossed six-plus quality innings for the visitors, but McKendry won the pitchers’ duel for Miami’s fourth victory in the last five games.
Miami added eight runs of insurance after the sixth inning to help seal the win.
Junior Frankie Bartow earned his first save of the season by pitching the final three innings.
Notre Dame (6-6, 0-2 ACC) had a chance to tie the game in the seventh when it put the first two runners aboard against Bartow, but the righthander induced a 4-6-3 double play and, with a runner on second, got Spencer Myers on a groundout to preserve the 1-0 leads.
The Hurricanes (7-7, 2-0 ACC) added three runs of insurance in the home half of the seventh to put the game away.
Notre Dame’s bullpen struggled with control in the inning, and Miami took advantage.
Walks from seniors Michael Perez and Hunter Tackett and an error by reliever Andrew Belcik loaded the bases. A wild pitch from Belcik scored Tackett, who was Friday night’s hero, and a two-RBI single from Tony Jenkins with the bases loaded made it 4-0.
The Hurricanes tagged reliever Jack Sheehan for five runs in the ninth to increase their lead, with the run-scoring hits coming from freshman Raymond Gil (double), Tackett (single), junior Romy (single), freshman Dylan Cloonan (double) and Escala (single).
Escala, Jenkins and Isaac Quinones all extended their hitting streaks to a career-best five games.
“It’s great, especially our first ACC weekend – we needed this,” McKendry said. “Eight of the next nine weekends, or whatever it is, are ACC play. It’s great to start by winning the series.”
The Hurricanes and Fighting Irish will cap their series with Game 2 of the doubleheader. The action is slated for broadcast on ACC Network Extra and WVUM 90.5 FM.