Gil Blasts Canes to Victory over USF

By David Villavicencio

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Ninth-inning heroics from Raymond Gil gave Miami its first walk-off win of the season, beating USF, 7-5.

The junior third baseman delivered in the bottom of the ninth, crushing a game-winning two-run homer off of Bulls reliever Graham Hoffman to send the Hurricanes (5-3) home victorious.

“It was a slider up in the zone and I was just trying to put the ball in play,” Gil said. “There was two strikes and I was just trying to keep the rally going for our team. I knew [Alex] Toral would have come up with the big hit if I got it to him. I got a pitch up in the zone and I put a good swing on it.”

Wednesday’s back-and-forth battle between the Canes and Bulls (2-7) featured two teams that traded blows for nine innings in front of 2,016 fans inside Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. After dropping three consecutive close games over the weekend, the Hurricanes were happy to earn a tight victory against USF.

“Nothing’s really changed, we just keep battling,” Gil said.” We’ve always talked about if we are going to be the team we want to be, we’ve got to win close games. We didn’t win those previous three close games, but we’ve got to keep the confidence and keep fighting and know that we’re good enough to win those close games.”

USF jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, as Dontae Mitchell smacked the first pitch he saw for a leadoff single and, two pitches later, Carmine Lane hit a two-run homer against Miami starter Alex McFarlane.

“In the first seven innings, we only got one leadoff guy out. That’s too many guys,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “They were being aggressive. You could tell in the scouting report they were going to swing at the fastball and be aggressive. Our pitchers have to do a better job of getting their off-speed over and we’ve got to get the leadoff guy.”

But the Canes responded with a two-out rally in the bottom of the innings against USF starter Baron Stuart. Adrian Del Castillo got things started with a two-out single and Gil followed with a walk before Alex Toral pushed home Del Castillo with an RBI single to left that cut the Bulls’ lead in half, 2-1.

Miami evened the score an inning later, as Anthony Vilar opened the bottom of the second with a double down the line in left. Two batters later, Vilar crossed home plate on an RBI groundout to short off the bat of Luis Tuero.

The Hurricanes took their first lead of the game with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Tuero’s first hit of the season drove in a pair of runs, as the redshirt freshman singled to left and pushed home Toral and Vilar to put Miami on top, 4-2.

Jared Thomas added to Miami’s lead in the bottom of the fifth, belting a solo shot deep to right for his first home run as a Hurricane. 

The Bulls got that run back in the top of the sixth, as Dylan Buck and Julio Cortez started the inning with consecutive singles off Miami left-hander Alex Munroe. Two batters later, a sacrifice fly by Nick Gonzalez cut Miami’s lead to two runs, 5-3.

An inning later, USF squared the game at five when JD Dutka hit a two-run homer to centerfield off of right-hander Tyler Keysor.

Miami freshman Carson Palmquist followed Keysor on the mound and threw two shutout innings, allowing just one hit and one walk to help set the table for Gil to win the game in the bottom of the ninth with his second career walk-off hit. Palmquist’s excellent effort on the mound helped give the freshman his first career win as a Hurricane.

“It’s definitely one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Palmquist said. “I just love contributing to the team, even out of the bullpen and keeping the game close so we can have a chance to win.”

The Canes are back in action this weekend against Towson, hosting a three-game series beginning Friday at 7 p.m. Miami baseball will host first-ever book drive that will benefit the United Way of Miami-Dade ReadingPals program.
The Hurricanes have set a goal of collecting 1,000 new books, appropriate for Pre-K to Kindergarten students, throughout the Miami Baseball series when they host Towson Friday, February 28th through Sunday, March 1 at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.

Any person who donates a book will receive complimentary entry into the game. Staff from the United Way of Miami-Dade will be onsite to accept gift card donations to local book retailers.