Canes Close Midweek Sweep of Jackson State, 8-1
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – It took a little longer than they would have liked, but the Miami Hurricanes’ bats came alive to push them past Jackson State, 8-1.
The Canes (14-3, 2-1 ACC) struggled offensively early, but Adrian Del Castillo sparked a four-run fifth inning and never looked back. The victory over the Tigers (6-13, 1-2 SWAC) secured a midweek sweep of Jackson State to close out an 8-1 record over the nine-game homestand. It also tied the best start by the Hurricanes since opening the 2016 season 14-3.
“They threw some guys that maybe our guys hadn’t seen a lot of,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “The velocity was not high. They were throwing a lot of junk at us and our guys struggled. It’s not something we’ve practiced a whole lot of because we don’t face a whole lot of it. Having said that, the fifth inning was huge.”
For the second straight day, the Canes loaded the bases in the first inning thanks to a trio of walks. And, once again, Jackson State limited damage. Starter Joshua Swartz got Alex Toral to ground into a fielder’s choice that pushed home Jordan Lala, but resulted in the second out of the inning. Shortstop Wesley Reyes followed with a diving stab to rob Raymond Gil of a hit and end the threat with just one Miami run scored.
“I told the guys last night, we had a chance in the first inning to really blow it open and set t he tone for the series with bases loaded and nobody out,” DiMare said. “We didn’t do much and got a run out of it. The next inning last night, the second inning, we had first and second and nobody out and didn’t do anything. It kind of felt like that way again in the first inning tonight where we had something going and we only got a run out of it.”
The Tigers evened the score with two outs in the third, executing a double steal to tie the game 1-1. Equon Smith broke for second base and Del Castillo fired to second where Vilar cut the throw off and threw a strike back home, but Miami’s catcher could not hold on to the ball as he swiped the tag on Chandler Dillard.
Dylan Cloonan nearly put the Canes back ahead in the fourth, smacking a ball deep to right, but Chandler Dillard climbed the wall and robbed the Hurricanes’ designated hitter of a solo homer.
Miami, who was held hitless for 4.1 innings, finally broke through with a big inning off lefty reliever Mario Lopez in the fifth. Del Castillo’s RBI single to center was the first Hurricane hit of the night and it drove home Lala to put Miami ahead, 2-1. Alex Toral followed with his ninth home run of the season, a three-run bomb to right that gave the Canes a four-run lead, 5-1.
“I feel like hitting is contagious and once Del Castillo got that line drive to break it open to center field, it boosts the confidence for the next guy and that happened to be me,” Toral said. “I happened to get my pitch and was able to do what I was able to do with it.”
Del Castillo singled home another run in the sixth, smacking a two-out hit to right off reliever Garth Cahill that pushed home Lala and gave Miami a 6-1 lead. An inning later, Chad Crosbie added a two-out RBI single to right that gave the Hurricanes a 7-1 advantage.
Miami starter Slade Cecconi turned in a strong performance over a career-long seven innings and earned his third win of the year. The freshman right-hander allowed just one run on seven hits while striking out five and walking two. Cecconi pounded the strike zone on Wednesday, getting in a 0-1 count to 23 of the 28 batters he faced.
“I went out there and my body felt good and arm felt good,” Cecconi said. “I threw as many strikes as I could. That was the focus again this week.”
The Canes continued to add on in the eighth, as pinch hitter Tyler Paige ripped an 0-1 double down the line in left and Willy Escala, who walked to open the inning, scored from first to give the Canes an 8-1 lead.
Relievers Mark Mixon and JP Gates followed Cecconi with a scoreless inning of relief each to wrap up the seven-run victory for the Canes. The duo combined with Albert Maury, Gregory Veliz and Daniel Federman to allow just one unearned run over seven innings of relief against Jackson State.
“I was very happy with our bullpen the last two days,” DiMare said. “It’s something that we’ve had some question marks and concerns. Last night, Maury, Veliz and Fed all threw great and then you had Mixon come in and throw good and so did Gates. They pounded the strike zone, which is all I can ask of those guys, throw strikes, go after hitters, especially when you have leads and they did that. I was very, very happy with our bullpen.”
Miami hits the road this weekend for an ACC series at North Carolina. The Hurricanes and Tar Heels will open the series on Friday at 6 p.m. Saturday’s game is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start, while Sunday’s finale will begin at 1 p.m.