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Canes Pound Panthers to Earn Season Sweep

by David Villavicencio

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Miami Hurricanes made quick work of crosstown foe FIU, needing just two hours and 36 minutes to wrap up a season sweep of the Panthers.

The No. 20 Canes (17-8) rallied back from a 2-0 deficit to pick up their sixth comeback victory of the season. While a three-run fourth inning put Miami ahead for good, a four-run seventh helped the Canes close out an 8-3 victory before a sold-out crowd of 655 fans inside Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field on Wednesday night.

“I just thought it was a great job by our pitching staff,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “You don’t do that very often where you kind of just put a bunch of guys together there and it ended up working out, and why it ended up working out is because they all threw well. The only hiccup we had really was McFarlane fell behind 2-0 and I assume threw one there kind of right down the middle. But we pitched really well, all the pitchers.

“We played very good defense, which seems to be a normal thing for us, which is great,” DiMare added. “We need to play better D and I think we are playing better D. Great job answering after they scored two runs and we answered in the bottom of the fourth and then had a big one in this seventh but just very happy with the way we played.”

It was a pitchers’ duel early, with Miami and FIU putting up zeroes through three innings. But the Panthers (12-15) mounted a two-out rally against reliever Alex McFarlane, with catcher Luis Chavez hitting a two-run homer that gave FIU their first lead of the season against the Canes.

Miami responded in the bottom of the fourth, as Jordan Lala worked a leadoff walk and went first to third on a base hit by Anthony Vilar. Both base runners advanced 90 feet when FIU starter Jermaine Vanheyningen balked, cutting FIU’s lead in half.

After a hit by pitch, Vanheyninghen was lifted in favor of right-hander Orlando Hernandez and the true freshman balked to move Vilar and Yohandy Morales up to second and third. Adrian Del Castillo’s RBI groundout sent Vilar home to tie the game at 2 and Christian Del Castillo followed with a sacrifice fly that pushed Morales across home plate and put Miami ahead, 3-2.

The Canes protected their lead in the fifth, as right fielder Gabe Rivera gunned down FIU’s Seth Cannady trying to score from second on a base hit. Rivera threw a strike to catcher Carlos Perez, who applied the tag and ended the inning with the Hurricanes still leading by a run.

That duo made an impact in the bottom of the fifth two, as Rivera led the inning off with a base hit and scored on a one-out double by Perez that doubled the Miami lead to two runs.

Freshman Dominic Pitelli cranked his first career homer, crushing the second pitch he saw from reliever Miguel Alba over the right field wall to put the Canes ahead, 5-2.

“It definitely means a lot to have my first home run as a Hurricane, but I was just trying to put the ball in play,” Pitelli said. “I had okay first few at-bats, a double play and then a groundout. I just had to put something in play hard and then it ended up carrying and leaving the fence.”

Morales was excited for Pitelli’s blast, celebrating with his fellow infielder as he crossed home plate and returned to the Hurricanes’ dugout.

“Unbelievable, to be honest,” Morales said. “I was the first one out of the dugout. I just wanted to give him a hug and carry him. That’s my best friend on the field and off the field. So, it really got me excited and him as well.”

Miami got its second homer of the inning when Morales crushed a 3-1 pitch from Alba off the scoreboard for a two-run homer, capping a four-run inning by the Hurricanes. The true freshman called his shot to hitting coach Norberto Lopez, predicting what pitch he would see and what he would do with it.

“Before going up to hit, I told Lopes that he was going to throw me a changeup and I was going to hit a home run,” Morales said. “So, when I went to hit, I got the changeup and I hit the home run.”

FIU got a run back in the top of the eighth, as Dante Girardi hit a one-out, solo homer off reliever Nicholas Regalado. But Spencer Bodanza tossed a scoreless ninth to wrap up Miami’s sixth consecutive victory and the Hurricanes’ fifth straight win over the Panthers.

The Hurricanes travel to Pittsburgh this weekend for a three-game series against the Panthers beginning Friday at 3 p.m.