Van Belle Dazzles as Canes Sweep Rutgers, 9-3
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Brian Van Belle overcame injuries and three years in junior college to get to the mound inside Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field on Sunday.
All of the obstacles were worth the wait, as the redshirt junior turned in a brilliant debut and earned his first win as a Hurricane. Van Belle struck out five and allowed just five hits over six shutout innings to help the Hurricanes (3-0) secure a sweep over Rutgers (0-3) with a 9-3 victory on Sunday afternoon.
“I feel like my fastball was working really well,” Van Belle said. “I kept it too high and I’d like to keep it lower. Other than that, I just tried to get quick contact and keep a fast tempo.”
Van Belle was matched by Rutgers starter Tevin Murray over the first 2.2 innings of the game, as the junior lefty held Miami hitless in its first trip through the batting order. But back-to-back doubles from Tony Jenkins and Anthony Vilar ended the no-hit bid and the shut out, as Vilar’s shot to the leftfield wall pushed Jenkins around to score.
One batter later, Rutgers third baseman Carmen Sclafani threw a ball away trying to retire Freddy Zamora at first. Instead of ending the inning, Zamora ran all the way to third and Vilar scored from second to put Miami up, 2-0. Vilar finished the weekend 7-for-11 (.636) with four doubles, eight runs scored and four RBI.
Two innings later, Miami chased Murray from the game when it loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth. Vilar sparked the rally with a two-out base hit, while Zamora walked and Adrian Del Castillo was hit by a pitch before Murray was replaced by freshman right-hander Garrett French. The reliever threw a 1-2 wild pitch to the backstop that allowed Vilar to score and give the Hurricanes a 3-0 lead.
“Del Castillo has been special from Day 1, so we all knew that,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “I was really, really impressed and certainly happy to see Vilar swing the bat. We faced some lefties and these guys hit off some lefties where they stayed in there and drove the ball the other way, which is a great sign for hitters.”
Aggressive baserunning by the Canes allowed them to score a two-out run in the sixth. Chet Moore beat out a chopper to short and Jordan Lala sped around third and straight home to put Miami up, 4-0.
Rutgers finally got on the scoreboard in the seventh, as Peter Serruto singled to left to drive home Sclafani. A failed pickoff attempt by reliever Daniel Federman allowed Sclafani to reach scoring position and Serruto pushed him home one pitch later.
The Hurricanes got that run back in the bottom of the seventh thanks to key hits by a pair of freshmen. Vilar ripped his fourth double of the weekend to open the inning and Del Castillo smacked an 0-2 to center for a one-out RBI single that made it 5-1 in favor of Miami.
“I felt like we came together as a team,” Del Castillo said. “Pitching-wise and hitting-wise we came together and we won.”
The Scarlet Knights added two in the eighth, as Chris Brito singled with runners on first and second to drive in Mike Nyisztor and put runners at the corners with no outs. Two batters later, Luke Bowerbank hit a slow grounder up the middle and Miami could not turn the double play. Kevin Welsh scored from third and put Rutgers within two, 5-3.
Miami answered again in the bottom of the eighth, putting up a four-run inning that was sparked by a bases loaded two-run double over the centerfielder’s head by Del Castillo. Right-hander Tyler Keysor came in to pitch the ninth and wrap up Miami’s first sweep on opening weekend since winning all three games against the Scarlet Knights in 2016.
“We are happy to get the sweep,” DiMare said. “Sundays seem to be always a tough game for us here for whatever reason. The last two years Rutgers has beaten us and not let us get a sweep, we let them get out of here with a W. Once we got the win last night that was something that I emphasized and again this morning when we met.”
“Overall, through nine innings we made some mistakes here and there which we’ve got to do a better job of,” DiMare said. “Overall, playing a full nine-inning game, we did a good job to get the win today.”