Freshmen Lead Canes Past App State, 6-1
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – A pair of freshmen stepped up in a big way to help the Miami Hurricanes earn their 10thwin of the season with a 6-1 victory over Appalachian State Wednesday night.
Outfielder Jordan Lala put the Hurricanes (10-2) ahead with a leadoff homer and starting pitcher Slade Cecconi dazzled on the mound, helping the Hurricanes best the Mountaineers (4-7). The Canes have won all eight games at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in 2019 and have won 14 straight home games dating back to May 4, 2018.
“I’m very happy with the start,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “We are understanding that we need to keep it all in perspective. We’ve got a long way to go and baseball has so many games. We’re getting ready now to get into the thick of it where you’ve got to play good solid baseball. You can’t be making a lot of mistakes or then games can bite you, but I am happy with the 10-2 start.”
Lala, who had his first career three-hit game, smashed the first pitch he saw from Appalachian State starter Cameron Kepley over the right field wall for his first career homer to put Miami up, 1-0.
“It felt pretty good,” Lala said. ” Once I got put in the leadoff spot, I thought I was taking a little bit and getting behind in the count. I just thought today I was going to be aggressive an it worked out.”
The freshman’s leadoff home run was the first by a Hurricane since Carl Chester homered to lead off a game against Wake Forest on March 21, 2015.
“We didn’t hit one home run today in BP, not one,” DiMare said. “Of course, first pitch of the game for us we hit it out of the ballpark, which is crazy.”
That’s all the run support Cecconi needed. The freshman right-hander was excellent in his third start of the season, earning the win after allowing just one run on four hits over sixth innings. One start after allowing four walks in four innings, Cecconi issued just one free pass while racking up a career-high eight strikeouts.
“The whole mentality today was to go out there and throw every pitch for a strike,” Cecconi said. “I feel like I executed that well. I worked on that all week with [pitching coach] J.D. [Arteaga] and it really helped.
Miami added two runs in the fourth after loading the bases to start the inning thanks to three straight walks by reliever Jason Cornatzer. Tony Jenkins hit a one-out sacrifice fly to center that allowed Alex Toral to tag up and score easily from third. Lala followed with a two-out single past the first baseman that drove in Raymond Gil from second and gave the Canes a 3-0 lead.
Adrian Del Castillo extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a two-out single to left in the fifth inning. The freshman, who finished 2-for-4, has the longest hitting streak to start a Hurricane career since Esteban Tresgallo hit safely in the first 15 games of 2013.
“Three out of the first four hitters are freshmen with Lala, [Anthony] Vilar and Del Castillo,” DiMare said. “Of course, you’ve got another one in there with [Luis] Tuero. I’m very happy with the freshmen. Slade threw well today and [JP] Gates threw very well today and has the last couple outings. We’ve had good classes the last couple of years and we are starting to see that come together.”
After holding Appalachian State scoreless for the first five innings on Wednesday, the Mountaineers finally scratched a run against Cecconi in the sixth. Luke Drumheller singled and Bailey Welch doubled to give the Mountaineers runners on second and third with one out. Cleanup hitter Phillip Cole drove home Drumheller with an RBI groundout to short that cut into Miami’s lead, 3-1.
The Canes padded their lead in the bottom of the sixth when Gil and Tuero scored after a throwing error with two outs by pitcher Jack Hartman allowed Lala to reach base and advance to second.
“I thought we played pretty solid,” DiMare said. “A few things we need to do better. We left too many guys on base. We could’ve had some big innings there with second and third and nobody out and we were fortunate that Jordan hit a little dribbler in front and we scored in that inning.”
JP Gates, Gregory Veliz, Mark Mixon and Daniel Federman combined to throw three scoreless innings of relief to close out the 10th win of the season for the Canes. Federman, who entered the game with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth, got Luke Allison to fly out to right to earn his third save of the year.
Miami opens ACC play with a weekend series against Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes will retire legendary head coach Jim Morris’ number 3 in a pregame ceremony Friday night inside Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.