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Hurricanes Punch Ticket to ACC Baseball Championship Semifinals

Hurricanes Punch Ticket to ACC Baseball Championship Semifinals

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Survive and advance.

With a spot in the semifinals of the 2024 ACC Baseball Championships on the line, the Hurricanes knocked off one of the top teams in the country.

No. 11 seed Miami mounted an early lead and held off second-seeded Clemson late, winning 8-7 Thursday afternoon at Truist Field.

“I’m just so proud of them,” head coach J.D. Arteaga said. “Knowing that our backs are against wall, the only goal that we have is to win this tournament. We’re halfway there. Today was a complete and total team effort — pinch-hit home run, good defensive plays, good base running and good pitching. That’s how you win baseball games.”

With the tying run at first and the go-ahead tally at the plate with two outs in the ninth, left fielder Edgardo Villegas rose to the occasion.

Villegas made a leaping catch at the wall to preserve the one-run victory and put the Hurricanes (27-29) in the conference’s semifinals for the second straight year.

“My heart dropped. I thought it was gone,” closer Myles Caba said. “The celebration afterwards was awesome. I have no words. I think I blacked out after the catch.”

Caba (5) recorded the final six outs against the Tigers (40-14) after throwing 60 pitches in a 3 1/3-inning save Tuesday.

“A gusty performance,” Arteaga said. “We felt that the game was on the line in the eighth. We brought him in and he did too good for his own good, so he went back out for the ninth.”

Caba and Villegas were far from the only Hurricane heroes.

Freshman outfielder Jake Kulikowski delivered a pinch-hit solo shot in the eighth to provide Miami with an insurance tally, which proved to be the difference.

“We’re thankful for the opportunity to play at least one more game,” Arteaga said. “We’re going to empty the tank out there and give it all we got. Everyone is very, very excited. We’re finally playing some good baseball at the right time.”

Junior right-hander Gage Ziehl (5-3) earned the win with his 11th quality start in his 15th appearance of the season.

Ziehl pitched six innings for the 10th time in his last 11 outings, holding the Tigers to just two earned runs.

“Even when he’s not at his best, he’s always going to give you a chance. You’re always going to get his best effort,” Arteaga said. “That’s what you get out of the Friday night guy on your staff. Pretty or ugly, he’s always going to give you a chance to win.”

Miami’s offense gave its ace plenty of early run support, scoring six times across the first two innings.

The Hurricanes put up a five-spot in the second, highlighted by Antonio Jimenez‘s three-run blast.

“I was just trying to go the other way with the ball and get the runner over,” Jimenez said. “I ended up getting a good pitch to hit and did some damage on it.”

In the win, Daniel Cuvet notched his 73rd RBI of the year, the second-most by a Miami freshman, trailing only Ryan Braun (76) in 2003.

With the victory, the Hurricanes became the third No. 11 seed to reach the semifinals of the ACC Baseball Championship. Since the conference adopted a 12-team pool play format in 2017, the lowest seed in a pod has now advanced to the semifinals seven times.

Miami will face the winner of No. 3 seed NC State and sixth-seeded Duke Saturday. First pitch is slated for 5 p.m.

To keep up with the University of Miami baseball team on social media, follow @CanesBaseball on XInstagram and Facebook.