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Baseball Falls to Georgia Tech in 10 Innings, 5-4

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – On a night when legendary head coach Jim Morris had his number retired, the Miami Hurricanes fell to Morris’ previous school, Georgia Tech, 5-4
 
The Canes (10-3, 0-1 ACC) dropped their ACC opener Friday night, falling to the Yellow Jackets (10-4, 1-0 ACC) in 10 innings. But Raymond Gil, who hit a game-tying homer in the third, nearly delivered with another big hit in the bottom of the 10th.
 
“Our guys battled,” head coach DiMare said. “It was first and second and that ball was scorched to right field. The ball just doesn’t carry to right. If that ball is hit to the other side, it’s a home run and he’s trotting around the bases.” 
 
In a game that featured ACC aces Xzavion Curry of Georgia Tech and Evan McKendry from Miami, Friday night’s matchup came down to the bullpens and the Yellow Jackets were able to keep Miami off the scoreboard while Georgia Tech delivered one big hit to take the series opener. 
 
Georgia Tech threatened in the top of the eighth against freshman lefty JP Gates. With two outs and runners at the corners, Gates threw a ball in the dirt that scurried away from catcher Michael Amditis. But the UM backstop ran the ball down and threw to Gates at home, who applied the tag on Colin Hall and preserved the tie.
 
In the bottom of the eighth, Miami cleanup hitter Adrian Del Castillo was hit by a pitch from GT reliever Jonathan Hughes to lead off the inning. DiMare brought Tony Jenkins in to pinch run at first with no outs. The speedy outfielder advanced to third, but the Canes could not bring him home and both teams remained knotted at four headed to the ninth.
 
After both sides went down in order in the ninth, ACC home run leader Kyle McCann smacked an 0-2 pitch for a solo homer off Daniel Federman to lead off the top of the 10th. The Yellow Jackets’ starting catcher raised his season tally to 10 homers and put Georgia Teach ahead for the third time in the game. 
 
“Federman has the guy with two strikes there and he hit the home run,” DiMare said. “He’s one of their better hitters, their power guy, and he got a pitch down and in, right in his wheelhouse. But we still had a chance.”
 
Miami appeared poised to answer in the bottom of the inning, as Freddy Zamora smacked a one-out double to put the tying run in scoring position. After Jenkins flied out to shallow center, Tech intentionally walked Alex Toral to put the go-ahead run on first.
 
DiMare again went to his bench to bring in speed, putting Willy Escala in for Toral with Raymond Gil at the plate. The sophomore third baseman, who tied the game at three with a fourth-inning solo homer, nearly delivered again. But his drive to the wall in right field was caught by Colin Hall, son of Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall, and Miami’s final hope was squashed.
 
“I thought it had a chance,” Gil said. “I hit it hard and it happened to be that he was playing deep and made a really good play.”
 
The sophomore third baseman, who was 1-for-5 on the night, knew the Canes had several opportunities to come away victorious on Friday. But Gil and his teammates are looking to bounce back on Saturday. 
 
“It’s hard,” Gil said. “I’m trying to come through for my teammates and I know that in my prior AB I didn’t come through in a spot that I could have put us in the lead. My heart sinks a little bit because I didn’t come through there, but there’s another day tomorrow.”
 
Georgia Tech took its first lead of the night in the third inning, taking advantage of a McKendry error and making the junior right-hander pay for it.
 
The Yellow Jackets started the inning with a bunt single by leadoff man Luke Waddell, who took second after McKendry’s throw was wide of the bag at first. Michael Guldberg followed with an RBI single to center and Tristin English belted a two-run homer to left to give Tech a 3-0 lead.
 
An inning later, Miami had a four-hit inning against Curry. The Hurricanes had back-to-back singles from Zamora and Del Castillo to open the inning, with Del Castillo’s hit extending the freshman’s hitting streak to 13 games to begin his Miami career.
 
With runners on first and second and no outs, Toral hit a two-run single to right that cut Tech’s lead to one. But Toral was thrown out trying to advance to second after his single and that out proved costly, as Gil followed with a solo homer over the scoreboard in left that tied the game at 3 instead of put the Canes ahead. 
 
“We had a couple base running blunders that really hurt us,” DiMare said. “Alex had that clutch hit that knocked in two runs. He kept running and he shouldn’t have. The ball was cut and you could see it was cut. If he stays at first, the next guy hits a home run and it would’ve been a 4-3 game at the time.”
 
The stalemate was short-lived, as English led off the top of the fifth with his second homer of the night to put the Yellow Jackets back ahead, 4-3. McKendry finished the night allowing four runs on nine hits while striking out five over six innings.
 
The Canes evened the game again in the seventh, as Luis Tuero led off the inning with a double against Curry. Two batters later, Dylan Cloonan doubled off reliever Jonathan Hughes to tie the score at four.  Curry finished the night allowing seven hits while striking out nine over 6.1 innings.
 
“Cloonan, after he hit a clutch hit, he was at second and Lala hit the ball to left field and he doesn’t advance,” DiMare said. “That was a tough read. The ball fell right in front of the left fielder, but he needs to hang out a little farther and go to third when the ball drops. The next hitter hits the fly ball and that would’ve won us the game. We wouldn’t have gone to 10 innings. We would’ve won the game, 5-4. It’s tough, but in games like this little things are big.”
 
Miami retired Morris’ number 3 in a pregame ceremony on Friday night. Known as “3,” Morris was one of the most successful head coaches in college baseball history with 1,594 career victories as a Division I skipper. 
 
“Coach Morris and Coach [Ron] Fraser are the two icons of this program,” DiMare said. “Certainly for me, I owe my career to him. He gave me an opportunity, he gave J.D. [Arteaga] an opportunity and he gave [Norberto Lopez] an opportunity. All three of us were on his staff and we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”
 
In 25 seasons at Miami, Morris won 1,090 games, made the NCAA postseason in 23 straight years, reached the College World Series 13 times and won National Championships in 1999 and 2001. Honoring Morris in advance of a series against the Yellow Jackets was fitting, as the legendary head coach was at the helm of Georgia Tech’s baseball program from 1982-1993 before taking over in Coral Gables.
 
“I’m sure it was a special night for him,” DiMare said. “To do it with us playing Georgia Tech, where he has a lot of great memories there. He coached there for 12 years and he’s got a lot of friends in Georgia and some of his closest friends are still in Atlanta.”
 
“It’s a well-deserved honor and one that everybody knew he was going to get,” DiMare said. “It was just a matter of when. It was a special night. It’s a shame that we couldn’t win the game, but it was a good game. We fought hard. Our guys played and I’m proud of our guys. We’ve got to be ready tog o tomorrow. That’s baseball. We’ve got to turn the page and be ready to go tomorrow.”
 
Sophomore right-hander Chris McMahon (1-0, 1.53 ERA) will face off against junior LHP Connor Thomas (1-1, 3.79 ERA) beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday. Sunday’s finale is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch and will feature Miami’s Brian Van Belle (2-1, 1.06 ERA) opposite Georgia Tech sophomore LHP Brant Hunter (0-1, 0.69 ERA).