Vilar’s Game-Winning Hit Pushes Canes Past UMBC, 3-2
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Miami Hurricanes and the UMBC Retrievers squared off in a pitcher’s duel Saturday night, but some late-inning heroics by infielder Anthony Vilar gave the hometown Canes a 3-2 victory.
Vilar, who was 3 for his last 25 entering his at-bat in the bottom of the eighth inning, smacked a single up the middle and fellow freshman Jordan Lala scored from second after a high throw by UMBC shortstop Andres Machado to the plate.
“Having the game-winning hit is obviously big for anybody,” Vilar said. “I was just looking for a good pitch. I haven’t been hitting as well as I’d like to. I was just looking for a pitch to barrel up and hit a line drive and that’s what I did.”
Umpires convened and decided to review the play at the plate. The video review, which seemed to last an eternity, resulted in the call on the field standing. Lala was safe and Miami was in the lead, 3-2.
“The Vilar hit was huge,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “The guy dove and knocked it off the end of his glove. He hit a hard ball up the middle and there was just a little hesitation where the shortstop looked to first and he was going to go there and they were screaming ‘four.’ That hesitation and, of course, the high throw and bang-bang play at the plate. I’m not sure if I’ve seen a challenge where they’re looked at it that long. That tells you how tough of a call it was to make.”
Saturday’s victory at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field kept the Hurricanes (8-2) undefeated at home in 2019. The victory also moved DiMare into a three-way tie with Perry Moss (1955) and Jim Morris (1994) for the best start by a Miami head coach in their first season at the helm of the program.
“It was a great team effort,” DiMare said. “We did so many little things that made a difference and in these one-run games every little thing is so important. It was a great baseball game and I am happy we came out on top.”
Miami’s offense has been potent early in 2019, scoring 7 or more runs in six of the Canes’ first nine games. The Hurricanes had 10 hits on Saturday, but UMBC managed to limit damage by forcing Miami to leave 14 runners on base over eight innings.
UMBC starting pitcher Aaron Husson was excellent on Saturday, holding the Canes to just one run on three hits over 4.2 innings. The sophomore right-hander was lifted with two on and two outs in the fifth in favor of reliever Stephen Schoch, who pitched out of a bases loaded jam and kept Miami off balance for most of his three innings of work.
“Their guys pitched,” DiMare said. “They had two guys with funky deliveries, back-to-back righties that just had awkward deliveries and it’s hard to prepare for those guys.”
Miami starter Chris McMahon was outstanding in his third start of the season, allowing just one unearned run on three hits over six impressive innings. The sophomore right-hander walked two and posted a career-best 10 strikeouts that are the most strikeouts by a Miami pitcher in 2019.
“His slider had really good depth to it,” DiMare said. “Our expectations of Chris are so high and I’m sure his are, too. I’ll take six innings and two walks and 10 strikeouts every time.”
With both teams getting strong pitching on Saturday, runs were hard to come by and Miami manufactured its first one thanks to some quality base running with two outs in the bottom of the first. Freddy Zamora broke for second base and beat catcher Colin Casey’s throw easily, while J Lala darted home to complete the successful double steal and give the Canes a 1-0 lead.
But UMBC answered in the top of the second thanks to a defensive misstep by Miami. The Hurricanes made their fifth error of the series when center fielder Tony Jenkins let a Wright single roll under his glove and past him, allowing Ethan Wentzlaff to score easily from second and tie the game at 1.
“You could tell the energy from their team because they were in the game,” DiMare said. “We scored on in the first but they tied it up real quick in the top of the second. It was a low scoring game and there were just a lot of balls hit at people. We left 14 guys on base. We never got a guy on third base with less than two outs it seemed like. We needed that two-out clutch hit and we couldn’t quite get it until Vilar did.”
Freshman Adrian Del Castillo put the Canes back on top in the seventh, as his one-out double off the wall in left sent home Zamora and put Miami up, 2-1. The two-base hit extended Del Castillo’s hitting streak to 10 games and put Miami six outs away from victory.
But fellow freshman Blaze O’Saben had other plans in the next half inning. The UMBC centerfielder tied the game at 2 in the top of the eighth with his first career homer, a solo shot to left off Miami reliever Gregory Veliz.
Vilar’s hit in the eighth put the Hurricanes ahead and Zamora followed with a double before Amditis walked to load the bases. Lefty reliever Andy Rzylowicz replaced Schoch and struck out Alex Toral to end the threat and give UMBC a manageable one-run deficit to try and catch.
Much like they had twice before, UMBC appeared poised to answer in the top of the ninth. AJ Wright led off the inning with a four-pitch walk from reliever Daniel Federman. Miami native and UMBC third baseman Christian Torres singled through the left side to give the Retrievers runners at the corners with no outs.
But Federman bore down and pitched out of the jam, sandwiching a pair of strikeouts between a fortuitous second out.
After designated hitter Ethan Gallagher struck out looking, Wright was caught too far off the bag at third. Miami catcher Michael Amditis ran at Wright before tossing to Raymond Gil, who applied the tag on the baserunner for the second out of the inning. Machado struck out swinging to end the game and give Federman his second save of the year.
Sunday’s finale is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch and will feature Miami’s Brian Van Belle (1-1, 1.50 ERA) opposite UMBC sophomore RHP Nick Trabacchi (1-0, 0.00 ERA).