The skies were blue in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Truist Field, but it was not a pretty day for Miami baseball.
The Hurricanes were unable to play a full nine as they trailed by too many runs after seven innings, losing against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 16-3 in their final game in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
“This was a tough one because you just fall so far behind, it’s tough,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “We’ve got to pick these guys up mentally, that’s going to be my job and our coaches jobs moving forward.”
Miami (39-18, 20-11 ACC) got off to a strong defensive start, turning a quick double play in the first inning to retire the side after a base hit.
Then, sophomore first baseman CJ Kayfus hit a solo home run on the first pitch the Hurricanes offense received. The home run was only the second season allowed from Wake Forest starter Rhett Lowder, the team’s first-ever ACC Pitcher of the Year, all year.
Wake Forest (40-17-1, 16-14-1 ACC) struggled to respond, leaving two runners on base through the first two innings.
But the Demon Deacons weren’t scoreless for long and instead responded in a big way. In the third inning, Wake used three straight hits to score two runs and take the 2-1 lead.
Shortly after, Miami freshman starter Karson Ligon was pulled in favor of sophomore Ronaldo Gallo, who was charged with one run upon allowing a three-run home run to Wake Forest first baseman Nick Kurtz.
“We didn’t pitch down in the zone at all. We struggled pitching inside,” DiMare said.
With a 5-1 deficit, Ligon ended his day with two innings pitched, allowing four runs on six hits.
Another home run from Wake outfielder Adam Cecere made expanded the Demon Deacons’ lead to 6-1 after 2 1/2 innings.
Needing a response, the Hurricanes scored one in the bottom of the third. A walk to sophomore shortstop Dominic Pitelli and another extra base hit from Kayfus gave Miami two base runners. Though third baseman Yohandy Morales grounded out, he scored Pitelli to make it 6-2.
The Deacons burst back in the top of the fourth with more offense. After getting two runners aboard, catcher Brendan Tinsman homered to left field off former starter Alejandro Rosario to bring the lead to 9-2.
“Kids are getting more pitches over the fat part of the plate, and kids are big and strong with aluminum bats. This ballpark is offensive, there’s no doubt,” DiMare said.
In the fifth inning, Miami scored once more as sophomore outfielder Jacob Burke grounded out to second but scored Kayfus, who doubled and advanced earlier on in the frame.
After the fifth, Wake pulled Lowder, who ended his day with five innings pitched and allowed three runs on four hits, walking five batters and striking out four.
“Offensively, today, I thought we did a decent job in terms of getting his [Lowder’s] pitch count up,” DiMare said. “We couldn’t get any hits, and we were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.”
Entering the sixth, Wake Forest held the advantage 9-3.
With no runners on, a two out walk to Kurtz proved to be a mistake from sophomore reliever Alejandro Torres. The next hitter, sophomore Brock Wilken, drove a fly ball over the wall for a home run. A part of three in a row, Cecere then hit his second home run of the game. A home run from infielder Jake Reinisch ended the sixth-inning surge with a 13-3 lead.
Wake Forest again capitalized an inning later. Miami native Lucas Costello hit a solo shot for the seventh home run of the day for the Deacons. A triple by infielder Michael Turconi brought in another run and Turconi scored on a groundout by Tinsman.
Trailing 16-3 in the bottom of the seventh, the Hurricanes batting order could only amount one hit before the league called the game.
“A little funk we are going through right now, but we have an unbelievable opportunity. Everybody’s 0-0 on Friday, everybody’s got the same record,” DiMare said.
The Hurricanes needed six relievers, while Wake Forest only utilized right-hander Teddy McGraw. He provided the Deacons two innings, giving up no runs while striking out three hitters and walking one.
Ligon got the loss (6-6) and Lowder earned the win (11-3).
The Hurricanes now await their NCAA tournament selection. While the team is likely to host a regional, it is unclear if it will be in position for a top-eight seed in the tournament, giving them the chance to host a super regional.
The NCAA tournament selection show will take place Monday at noon and will be shown on ESPN2.