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Canes Rally Back to Sweep Wake Forest

by David Villavicencio

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Timely hitting helped the Miami Hurricanes rally back to sweep Wake Forest in an unusual two-game series with a 6-3 victory on Saturday night.

The No. 5 Canes (8-4, 5-3 ACC) scored five runs over their final three turns to bat to secure the win before a sold-out crowd of 656 fans inside Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. The victory gave the Hurricanes their first ACC series sweep of the season and increased their winning streak to five games.

“It felt like the game today going into it was going to be kind of like this after playing a game like we did last night,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “It’s hard to duplicate that in baseball. I just felt like this game was gonna be one of those where their team and our team were probably going to go to the bullpen and it was going to be a closer game and come down to the end there and it kind of worked out that way.”

Trailing 3-1 in the sixth, Miami responded with a three-run rally that gave the Hurricanes the lead for good.

Anthony Vilar extended his hitting streak to nine games when he destroyed a 0-1 pitch from Wake Forest starter Rhett Lowder for a two-run homer. The sixth-inning blast to right tied the game and basically ended the night for Lowder, as Morales ripped a lineout to third and Wake head coach Tom Walter replaced his starter with lefty Hunter Furtado.

“We’re getting some power and some clutch hitting,” DiMare said of Vilar. “We gave him the MVP of the game today. It could have gone a few other guys but I just felt like he deserved it really for just how hot he’s been and the big hits he’s been getting. That’s a huge home run because you’re down 3 to 1 after they hit theirs and you’re deflated a little bit. But you’ve got to bounce back, there’s a lot of game left and we answered right back there with the two-run homer.

“He’s kind of a quiet leader on our team,” DiMare added. “He probably leads more than anybody on our team with his voice and his voice usually is a powerful one that players respect. I’m just very, very happy with Anthony and how he’s playing and hopefully, he can continue to do that.”

Adrian Del Castillo welcomed the freshman left-hander to the game by crushing a solo homer over the right field fence that put Miami back on top, 4-3. The home run was Del Castillo’s third in the last four games dating back to Sunday’s game-winning blast at NC State.

“The guy was warming up and I saw him throwing curveballs in the dirt, very in front of the plate, so I kind of took that out of the equation and just waited for a fastball and ended up getting it,” Del Castillo said.

Wake Forest threatened in the top of the seventh, getting two runners on to open the inning against reliever Anthony Arguelles. A strikeout of Shane Muntz and a double-play ball appeared to have Miami out of the jam, but the Hurricanes could not make the turn and that put runners at the corners with two outs and DiMare turned to closer Carson Palmquist to protect the one-run lead.

The lefty, who entered the weekend tied for the national lead in saves, struck out Lucas Costello looking to strand the runners at the corners and keep Miami ahead by a run.

“I had a feeling that this was probably going to be the last game, and whether it was or wasn’t if we had a chance to win it, we were going to get it done with him coming in at that time,” DiMare said. “Very happy to get the sweep, two-game sweep, but still a sweep, and keep this thing going.”

The Hurricanes added a run in the bottom of the seventh, as CJ Kayfus reached on a leadoff walk and scored on a two-out wild pitch that gave Miami a two-run lead with six outs to go.

An inning later, Christian Del Castillo tripled off reliever Camden Minacci to open the bottom of the eighth and scored when Alex Toral singled to center off right-hander Eric Adler to make it 6-3.

Palmquist closed the door, throwing the final 2.1 innings of the game to earn his national-leading fifth save of the year, while Arguelles picked up his Division I-best fourth win of the season.

“There’s no adjustment made, like throwing or playing catch-wise,” Palmquist said of throwing multiple innings. “It’s just like a mentality thing, knowing that you’re going to go out there and throw multiple innings and not to let one thing get in control of your attitude.”

While Friday’s game featured a lot of offense late, it was a pitcher’s duel early on.

Miami’s bats got right to work against Lowder in the first, as leadoff hitter Jordan Lala opened the game with a double to right and scored on an RBI single by Yohandy Morales. But Wake Forest evened the score at one when designated hitter Bobby Seymour led off the top of the second with a solo homer off UM starter Victor Mederos.

“I thought he pitched well,” DiMare said. “I’d like to see his velocity stay up a little bit more consistently from the beginning, but he’s still a young guy, a freshman throwing against a very good lineup. That’s a very good lineup, most of those guys are familiar names from two years ago when we played them at Wake Forest. That’s a lot of veteran guys in that lineup, highly-touted preseason guys. I thought he did a good, solid job and again, of course, the bullpen did a good job coming in after.”

The true freshman got into a groove after the Seymour homer, retiring 13 of the next 15 batters he faced while racking up a career-high seven strikeouts. But the Demon Deacons hit three extra-base hits on just three pitches to knock Mederos out of the game and take a 3-1 lead when Brock Wilken hit a two-run homer to left.

“I thought he was doing a really good job of getting ahead of hitters, especially with his off-speed stuff, he was getting ahead of hitters,” DiMare said. “Outstanding in terms of no walks and seven strikeouts. I made a mistake there. I wanted to get him out and we didn’t have our pitcher ready in the pen for that righty, Wilkin, that hit the home run. I wanted to bring somebody in at the time and our guy was not ready to go in at that time. I thought he was, but he wasn’t and that’s my fault. I wish that we could have got him out there, he wouldn’t have given up that hit there and that two-run home run.

But the Hurricanes answered with the three-run inning in the bottom of the sixth and never looked back, sweeping the Demon Deacons for the first time since 2011.

“I was happy to see where we fell behind and answered right back,” DiMare said. “We had a big inning there with a big home run by Anthony Vilar, a two-run home run to tie it, and then, of course, we added another run there with the home run by Del. It’s nice to get the long ball again, got that going, and I thought the pitchers all threw well. We didn’t walk anybody and had 12 strikeouts. The pitching staff did a phenomenal job.”

Sunday’s series finale, which was scheduled for 1 p.m., was canceled due to a lack of available pitchers for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons, who returned to action this weekend after missing over a week’s worth of games due to COVID-19 protocols, informed Miami of their decision to cancel following Saturday’s game.

The Hurricanes return to action Wednesday with a midweek trip to FGCU. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.