CMU’s Late Rally Drops Canes in Regional Opener, 6-5
STARKVILLE, Miss. – The Miami Hurricanes dropped a heartbreaker to Central Michigan Friday, falling in their first game at the Starkville Regional, 6-5.
The Canes (39-19) took a big lead early, but a resilient CMU (47-12) scratched and clawed over the final six innings before taking the lead for good with two outs in the top of the ninth to extend its winning streak to 19 games.
“It was probably an excited game for fans to watch,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “Obviously, we are not really excited right now. It has kind of been our issue as of late that we jump ahead early and for some reason we can’t put team’s away.”
Friday’s tilt between the Hurricanes and Chippewas was knotted at five through eight innings, but Central Michigan regained the lead in the top of the ninth, as Zach Gilles led off the inning with a base hit through the right side and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. David Cole hit a two-out flare to center that drove in Gilles and gave CMU a 6-5 advantage in its final turn at bat.
Hard-throwing reliever Zach Kohn hit Raymond Gil with a pitch to put the tying run on base with one out, but the right-hander retired pinch hitter Chad Crosbie and first baseman Alex Toral to close out the Chippewas’ victory.
Early on, it appeared like the Hurricanes were going to run away with a big victory in their first postseason game since 2016. Starting pitcher Chris McMahon pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the third, striking out Gilles and Jason Sullivan to end the inning with the bases full of Chippewas and the Hurricanes rewarded their starter in the bottom half of the inning.
The powerful Canes got a pair of third-inning homers to take a 4-0 lead against Central Michigan right-hander Pat Leatherman. Gabe Rivera led off the frame with a solo bomb deep to left field that got Miami on the scoreboard.
Jordan Lala and Anthony Vilar followed with back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners and fellow freshman Adrian Del Castillo crushed a three-run shot to right that was his 10thhome run of the season and ran his RBI tally up to 68 on the year.
Central Michigan answered in the top of the fourth, as Garrett Navarra hit a two-out triple to right-center that drove home Chase Rollin to get the Chippewas on the scoreboard.
“They have a good lineup with seven or eight guys that are hitting over .300,” DiMare said. “Of course, they have won 19 games in a row now. It does not matter what league you are playing in, that is pretty good.”
The Canes loaded the bases against Leatherman in the fourth, as the senior right-hander walked Vilar and Freddy Zamora before being lifted in favor of lefty reliever Ryan Palmblad. The freshman southpaw got Del Castillo to fly out to left and end the inning and keep Central Michigan within three.
Central Michigan took advantage of a Miami defensive miscue to have a big fifth inning at the plate. Toral could not handle a bouncer to first by Gilles and Zavier Warren scored after leading off the inning with a base hit. The error ended McMahon’s night after allowing seven hits over 4.1 innings while striking out five.
“They are tough to put away,” DiMare said. “Chris got into too many deep counts. Four and a third innings and 97 pitches, that is not going to get it done. I need him to go deeper in the game and pitch more efficient and to more contact. We had too many deep counts and didn’t put guys away when we needed to, but you have to give them credit. They were swing the bat, fouling pitching off, prolonging at-bats and getting deep in the at-bats. I did not like our tempo on the mound. It was way too slow. At the end of the day, they did a good job.”
Freshman Slade Cecconi followed McMahon on the mound, but could not slow the charging Chippewas. After surrendering a base hit to Jason Sullivan, Cecconi struck out Chase Rollin but hit David Cole with a pitch to load the bases. Evan Kratt followed with a bases-clearing double to left that put Central Michigan on top, 5-4.
Del Castillo delivered in a big way in the seventh, belting a leadoff solo homer deep to right to tie the game at five. The freshman recorded his first career multi-homer game and the solo bomb drove in his 69thRBI of the year, tying Yonder Alonso for the most runs batted in by a Miami freshman since 2006.
The solo homer by Del Castillo was the only hit allowed by Palmblad, who was highly effective in relief for Central Michigan. The lefty allowed just one run on one hit over three innings before turning the ball over to Zach Kohn with two outs in the seventh.
CMU got runners on first and second with two outs in the eighth and Griffin Lockwood-Powell up, but Miami sophomore Daniel Federman got the Chippewas’ third hitter to ground into an inning-ending fielder’s choice that kept the stalemate intact.
Miami threatened in the bottom of the eighth, getting runners on first and second with two outs, but Kohn got Zamora to fly out to center and maintain the game even at 5. A half inning later, the Chippewas plated the game-winning run to send them to a matchup against No. 6 national seed Mississippi State on Saturday night.
“They had momentum,” Rivera said. “We hit a bump there, but we still have all the confidence in the world We have done a great job all year. Things did not go our way out there. Like coach said, we have to turn the page and be ready for Southern tomorrow.”
The Hurricanes have a quick turnaround, as they will face Southern University in an elimination game on Saturday afternoon beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Miami will start junior right-hander Evan McKendry opposite Southern right-hander Eli Finney.