Offense powers No. 24 Miami to 18-10 victory over Panthers

Sophomore outfielder Gabe Rivera celebrates after blasting his fourth home run of the season. Photo Courtesy Miami Athletics

The “Mark Light Mob” barked at Florida International University pitcher Will Saxton for one more walk and the southpaw delivered.

With the bases loaded and one out, Saxton issued a free pass to Hurricanes outfielder Tony Jenkins, opening the floodgates in the fourth inning.

No. 24 Miami used a seven-run frame to roar past crosstown foe FIU 18-10 Wednesday evening at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.

“We didn’t play great tonight, but we outslugged them,” UM head coach Gino DiMare said. “Our offense seems to be the one constant all year long, which is the one thing we were concerned about. Our pitching has got to be better.”

The Hurricanes (28-14) drew three walks and were hit twice to plate three runs in the inning.

And then freshman Anthony Vilar broke the game open.

Vilar, who is normally UM’s second baseman, made his first career start at shortstop and ripped a bases-clearing triple down the right-field line to put Miami ahead 8-2.

“It was a low and inside pitch on a 3-1 count,” Vilar said. “I was just trying to get a pitch I can drive and I barreled it up and scored the three runs. That’s what’s most important.”

Two innings later, with UM leading FIU 10-5, designated hitter JP Gates tripled to right center, scoring three runs.

Sophomore outfielder Gabe Rivera launched his fourth home run of the season with a two-run blast in the second and Michael Amditis crushed a solo homer off the scoreboard in the fifth.

“It feels amazing to be able to contribute to this ball club and catch some great pitchers and have a great fielding team,” Amditis said. “It’s just great to be back on the field.”

Despite major absences from its lineup, Miami bounced back from a series loss to then-No. 8 Louisville to match its win total from a season ago with 13 games remaining.

Everyday third baseman Raymond Gil and shortstop Freddy Zamora were sidelined due to injuries. Gil was hit in the face with a grounder in Tuesday’s practice, while Zamora, who started the first 95 games of his career, sat to due to a sore arm.

Hurricanes right-hander Mark Mixon (2-0) tossed two innings in relief to notch his second victory of the season. Panthers sophomore Everett Hurst (1-3) picked up the loss.

Despite Jose Garcia’s two-run blast in the first inning, FIU (17-23) could not reclaim its early 2-0 lead.

The Panthers bullpen surrendered seven walks in the loss. 

Miami opens a three-game series against the Virginia Tech Hokies 7 p.m. Friday, April 26 at Alex Rodriguez at Mark Light Field.

“We’ve come a long way, but we’re certainly not done yet,” Amditis said. “We have a lot more to show and I think everyone is excited to show what we have.”