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Canes Drop Series at No. 20 Pitt

by David Villavicencio

PITTSBURGH – Opportunities presented themselves and the Miami Hurricanes could not take advantage of them, falling Saturday at No. 17 Pitt.

The No. 20 Canes (17-10, 10-9 ACC) loaded the bases in each of the final two innings, but could not get a run home against the Panthers (16-10, 11-9 ACC). Pitt escaped both threats to take Saturday’s game, 6-4.

“We’ve got a lot of games left to play so we have to bounce back and come to the field ready to play tomorrow,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “Baseball’s a crazy game and you’re going to go through so many ups-and-downs. You’ve got to turn the page quickly. As bad as a loss as that is right there, we have to turn the page quickly and be ready to play tomorrow.”

Miami’s offense got to work in the first inning against Pitt starter Matt Gilbertson, with Christian Del Castillo delivering a two-out RBI single to center that put the Hurricanes ahead, 1-0.

The Panthers responded in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a pair of walks by Miami starter Victor Mederos to open the inning. Bryce Hulett’s RBI single up the middle drove in Ron Washington Jr. to even the score at 1 and Jackson Phinney’s RBI groundout to short pushed in David Yanni to put Pitt ahead, 2-1. Nine-hole hitter Jordan Anderson followed with an RBI single up the middle that doubled the Panthers’ lead.

But the Hurricanes answered in the top of the third, tying the score thanks to some key hits by Anthony Vilar and Yohandy Morales that sparked a rally against Pitt. Vilar opened the inning with a base hit and scored on a Morales RBI double to right-center. ‘Yoyo’ came home after a throwing error on a groundball hit by Adrian Del Castillo to make it 3-3.

Mederos hit Nico Popa to start the bottom of the third and DiMare had seen enough, calling for reliever Jake Smith out of the bullpen. Popa, who stole second and third, scored when Washington singled to right to put Pitt back ahead, 4-3.

Pitt added a run in the fourth when Sky Duff doubled off the left field wall, pushing home Brock Franks to make it 5-3. Smith was strong on the mound for Miami, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out a career-high nine batters over three innings of relief.

A pivotal moment came in the top of the sixth, when a replay review overturned a potential two on, no outs situation for Miami and changed it to an automatic double play due to interference by the runner.

Umpires reviewed Christian Del Castillo’s slide into second base and determined he slid at the shortstop despite his foot hitting the front of second base, ruling an automatic double play that cleared the bases.

On the next pitch from Gilbertson, Raymond Gil crushed a home run deep over the left field fence to bring Miami within a run, 5-4. The fourth-year veteran has now hit four homers and driven in eight RBI over five career games at Pitt.

“We can’t let the umpires dictate the game,” DiMare said. “When you put the game in the hands of the umpires that means it’s probably not in your favor. If you’re complaining and crying about the umpires, the game probably didn’t go in your favor. I don’t know many people that complain too much when they win. At the end of the day, yeah, I’ve questioned some calls in this in this series. But if we play the game the right way, umpires can have nothing to do with the game. They shouldn’t even have any effect on us if we play the game the right way. That’s why you don’t put it in the umpires’ hands. When you play the game the right way, whatever mistakes they make aren’t going to matter because if we played the game the right way, it won’t affect us.”

The Panthers got the run back in the bottom of the sixth, as Popa doubled home Jordan Anderson to bring the Pitt lead back to two runs, 6-4.

Gil came up in a big spot in the eighth, as Miami loaded the bases with one out against reliever Jordan McCrum. The Panthers escaped the threat, as Gil grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Miami loaded the bases to start the ninth, but could not get anyone home and Pitt secured the series win over the Canes.

The Hurricanes and Panthers will play the series finale Sunday beginning at 1 p.m.