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Baseball Falls to VT in Series Finale

by David Villavicencio

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Miami Hurricanes dropped Sunday’s series finale against Virginia Tech, as the visiting Hokies rallied with five runs over the final three innings to win, 9-6.

No. 3 Miami (3-3, 1-2 ACC) scored early and often, but the Hokies (5-1, 2-1 ACC) answered after every Hurricane rally to spoil the Sunday afternoon for a sold-out crowd of 634 fans at Mark Light Field.

“Very disappointing,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “Seemed like every time we scored runs, they’d answer right back, we’d let them right back in the game. We score two, they score one, we score two, they score two, we score two, they score three. Every time we scored, they answered, which is not good on our part, very good on theirs, but not good on our part.”

Yohandy Morales flexed his muscles in the bottom of the first, belting a full-count pitch from Virginia Tech starter Anthony Simonelli over the left field wall for a two-run shot that was his first home run as a Hurricane. The true freshman has hit safely in five of Miami’s six games, including four straight dating back to the series finale at Florida last Sunday.

“Every game that we’re going to play is going to be tough, no matter the opponent that it is,” Morales said. “It’s obviously a bad feeling coming here for the first weekend at The Light and losing a series to Virginia Tech. So, we’re just going to move forward after today, we’re going to wear it today and keep moving forward. There are many more games to come, just six games into the season.”

The Hokies got a run back in the next half inning when Tanner Schobel drove in Tanner Thomas with a two-out RBI single to left that snapped a 17.1-inning scoreless streak for Miami’s pitchers. Virginia Tech had not scored since the top of the third inning in Friday’s series opener.

An inning later, Virginia Tech evened the score at 2 apiece when nine-hole hitter Fritz Genther lifted a fly into the wind that carried over the left-field wall for a solo homer.

The Hurricanes loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, chasing Simonelli from the game after 94 pitches over 4.2 innings pitched. Miami rightfielder Christian Del Castillo welcomed lefty Henry Weycker to the game with a two-run single to right that snapped the stalemate and gave the Canes a 4-2 advantage.

But Virginia Tech rallied in the top of the sixth when Tanner Schobel’s two-run single through the left side knotted the score at 4-4.

The Canes jumped back on top in the bottom of the inning, as Anthony Vilar’s one-out RBI single to center drove in pinch runner CJ Kayfus to put Miami ahead, 5-4. Morales followed with an RBI single to right that sent home Dominic Pitell about gave the Hurricanes their third two-run lead of the game.

“It’s a huge disappointment,” Vilar said. “They had a lot more energy than us the whole weekend and we had to pick it up. We scored early, we scored in the first inning every game and then we just stopped scoring and they had the energy to fight back. And we just weren’t able today to come back and score some runs with them.”

Facing a deficit for the third time, the Hokies were unfazed and tied the score at 6 when Kevin Madden had a two-run single through the left side. Virginia Tech took its first lead of the game when Schobel grounded out to second with the bases loaded, pushing home Madden to make it 7-6 in favor of the visitors.

“We’re still a team trying to find itself, trying to figure out the bullpen,” DiMare said. “We’re up 6 to 4 in the seventh inning and we go to our guys facing all those lefties there at the top of the order, they had four in a row, and we walked the first two guys and, of course, that opened up the floodgates for a three-run inning. Guys couldn’t stop the bleeding there out of the bullpen.”

Virginia Tech added two runs in the eighth, as Gavin Cross hit a two-run homer off Jordan Dubberly to give the Hokies a three-run lead, 9-6. Left-hander Shane Connolly threw two scoreless innings to pick up his second save of the weekend and secure the series for VT.

“It was a total team effort in terms of us not getting the job done,” DiMare said. “We didn’t play good defense, we’re still struggling with our lineup, trying to figure it out. Bottom line is they outplayed us and they deserve to win so we’ve got to turn the page and learn from these mistakes and get ready for NC State.”

Miami is back in action next weekend, traveling to Raleigh, N.C., for a three-game swing at NC State on March 5-7.