Offense continues to struggle as Canes fall to Knights 4-1

Javi Salas pitched well in the first start of his college career, but Miami’s offense just couldn’t come through for the sophomore.

The No. 13 Hurricanes lost 4-1 to Central Florida on Wednesday night, and have now lost three of their last four games. Over that stretch Miami has hit .231 as a team and scored just seven runs.

“The bottom line is you have to swing the bat,” coach Jim Morris said. “We left 10 guys on base and we had a chance to win. We’ve got to hit with guys on base.”

Salas started in place of Bryan Radziewski, who pitched last Wednesday in a win against St. Thomas but only went three innings. Radziewski began the year as Miami’s Sunday starter, and was moved to the midweek slot in favor of Steven Ewing.

It was unclear what exactly had been going on with the sophomore pitcher, but in his post-game press conference Morris revealed that Radziewski will need shoulder surgery and will not return this season.

“He’s had issues with his shoulder, to be honest, ever since he’s been here,” Morris said of the injury.

Salas struggled with his control in the first inning against the Knights, walking two batters but escaping trouble by getting a double play and a ground out to keep UCF off the board. After a one-two-three top of the second, Salas recorded the first two outs of the third, and leadoff hitter Ronnie Richardson came to the plate having seen the last six Knight batters retired.

Richardson put a quick end to that streak, hitting a high fly ball to left field that connected with the middle of the foul pole for a solo homerun.

“I got behind 2-0 and that was all on me – I put it right down the middle,” Salas said.

Salas went 5 1/3 innings, giving up two hits and two runs, one earned. The unearned run came on a miscommunication between left fielder Rony Rodriguez and center fielder Dale Carey. DJ Hicks hit a ball in the gap that neither player took charge of and he wound up on third. The next batter, Chris Taladay, grounded out to short and Hicks came in to score.

“The ball should have been caught. It was a communication thing and they let the ball drop,” said Morris, with a hint of frustration.

In the bottom of the seventh, UM’s Julian Santos pinch hit for Garrett Kennedy and walked. Leadoff hitter Stephen Perez laced a double into right-center field and Santos crossed home plate easily to cut Miami’s deficit to 2-1.

But UCF got two runs back in the top half of the eighth. Reliever Adam Sargent put Richardson on first after an inside pitch got away and hit the centerfielder in the back. Darnell Sweeney put down a successful sacrifice bunt to move Richardson over to second for three-hitter D.J. Hicks, who hit a double just inside the right field line past the reach of first baseman Tyler Palmer.

Richardson would come across to score and, after Taladay struck out, Alex Friedrich hit a routine groundball to Perez that would have ended the inning, but it trickled through his legs and off of his foot into the centerfield grass. Hicks came in to score UCF’s final run of the night.

Miami (21-8, 8-4) will now play one of its more important series of the year. The No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels will visit Coral Gables this weekend. If Miami hopes to host a regional in the postseason, they need to win the three-game series, because they would otherwise face an uphill battle in trying to secure home field advantage.

“It’s a tremendous challenge and it’s also an opportunity,” Morris said. “We beat these guys we can really move up in the standings and move up in our RPI.”