No. 21 Canes Rally Late vs. Wildcats, 12-7
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – A win is a win and the No. 21 Miami Hurricanes got one on Saturday night over Bethune-Cookman, 12-7.
The Canes (33-14) made four errors and let the Wildcats (16-34) rally back twice inside Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, but a five-run eighth inning helped Miami secure the series win over Bethune-Cookman.
“We’re happy to get the win,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “it was a little bit of a sloppy game from a defensive standpoint and we walked too many guys but, all in all, we did what we needed to do to win the game. They’re not always going to be pretty.”
Miami and Bethune Cookman entered the eighth inning tied at seven. The Wildcats got two runners on with two outs against reliever Daniel Federman, but closer Gregory Veliz followed induced an inning-ending pop out to maintain the stalemate.
Jordan Lala got things started for Miami in the bottom of the inning, ripping a leadoff single to right. Anthony Vilar followed with a walk and Bethune-Cookman head coach Jonathan Hernandez pulled reliever Seth Lovell in favor of fellow righty Tyler Krull.
Raymond Gil worked a one-out walk, loading the bases for freshman JP Gates. But Krull took some of the pressure off Miami’s designated hitter, throwing a wild pitch to put the Hurricanes ahead, 8-7. Gates padded Miami’s lead with a two-run single to right that ran his RBI tally for the game up to three and put the Hurricanes ahead, 10-7.
“It kind of relaxed me a little bit,” Gates said of the wild pitch. “I was not as stressed and they had a base open in case they wanted to put me on and get to the next guy. It was just about putting a ball into the field of play, but that kind of eased me down a little bit.”
Alex Toral, who was 3-for-4 on the night with three RBI, drove in two runs with a line drive to right that capped the rally and gave the Canes a victory.
Veliz returned to the mound in the ninth and retired the side after allowing a leadoff single to earn his second win of the season.
Seven of Miami’s nine starters had at least one hit on Saturday night, but freshman Adrian Del Castillo led the way with a career-high four hits and a pair of RBI.
“I’m just staying relaxed up there and seeing the ball,” Del Castillo said. “The last few games I’ve been anxious so I just calmed it down and let the pitch come to me and got a good pitch to hit.”
It seems fitting on the day of the 145th Kentucky Derby that a player nicknamed “Caballo” would have a big game and that is exactly what Del Castillo did.
The freshman, whose nickname means “horse” in Spanish, had two doubles and was robbed of a third when he scorched a ball to the gap in left-center that was run down by Brady Van Hook to momentarily keep the game tied at seven.
“He’s a machine, an absolute hitting machine,” DiMare said. “His swing is so efficient, it’s hard for him to not hit the ball hard. It just stays on the plane for so long. It’s such a flat swing and he has a quick bat and he’s a tough guy, a tough-minded guy. He’s got all the attributes to be one of our all-time great hitters.”
A resilient Bethune-Cookman squad did everything it could to put pressure on the hometown Hurricanes. The Wildcats threatened in the second, getting two on with two outs against Miami starter Slade Cecconi, but the freshman ended the inning with a strikeout to avoid damage. An inning later, Cecconi was not as fortunate.
The Wildcats got the first two batters aboard in the top of the third, as Zach Spivey singled and Clarence Carter reached on a throwing error by shortstop Anthony Vilar. Brady Van Hook followed with an RBI single to center that drove in Spivey. Carter crossed home plate after Nate Sterijevski’s fielder’s choice to second, doubling the Bethune-Cookman lead, 2-0.
But Miami charged back with four runs in the bottom of the third, as Del Castillo hit an RBI single up the middle and Gil followed with a two-run hit to center that put the Hurricanes ahead, 3-2. Gates ripped a single to the corner in right and Gil scored after Over Torres’ throw scurried away from the second baseman, allowing Miami’s cleanup hitter to trot home from third and put the Canes up, 4-2.
“It just says that the guys aren’t going to bury themselves,” DiMare said of Miami’s comeback ability. “There’s a different vibe on the team this year. Certainly one of them, and there are a lot of them, but one of them is that we feel like we can score runs and that’s a good feeling to have as a team.”
Two innings later, the Canes doubled their lead. Del Castillo led off the inning with a double to the gap in right-center and scored easily from second on an RBI single to right by Gates. After reaching on a fielder’s choice, Gabe Rivera stole second and scored on an RBI single by Toral that gave Cecconi and the Hurricanes a 6-2 lead.
But the Wildcats took advantage of some sloppy fielding by the Hurricanes in the top of the sixth, as Miami made two errors in the inning before Silas Grinstead hit a game-tying three-run homer off Cecconi. Spivey followed with a two-out double that chased Cecconi from the game in favor of reliever Mark Mixon, ending Cecconi’s night after allowing six runs on eight hits while tying a career-best nine strikeouts over 5.2 innings pitched.
“There’s no panic,” DiMare said. “We’ve got to find a way to score more runs and keep swinging the bats. We’re not done scoring. There’s still a lot of game left, which there was, and that’s the feeling you get in the dugout.”
Del Castillo drove in his second run of the game with a two-out double to left that landed just past the glove of Van Hook in left and drove home Lala to put Miami back on top, 7-6.
But Bethune got their first two batters on against Mixon in the seventh, as the junior walked Sterijevski and hit Torres with a pitch before he was replaced on the mound by Federman. The Wildcats sacrificed an out to move the two runners up to second and third before Joseph Fernando tied the game with an RBI single through the left side that evened the game at 7.
The Hurricanes and Wildcats return to action Sunday at 1 p.m. Miami is set to throw RHP Tyler Keysor (5-0, 4.28 ERA) against RHP Isaak Gutierrez in the series finale.