Miami recovers from Sunday loss, rallies to beat Florida International, 7-3, in cross-town rivalry

Junior infielder CJ Kayfus hits a ball during Miami's win over Penn State University on Sunday, Feb. 19 at Mark Light Field. Photo credit: Alexandra Carnochan

It was a wet and cool Wednesday night in the tropical southern side of the state of Florida. After a 20-minute rain delay to begin the game, Miami looked delayed itself, starting the game slow but ultimately turning it on in the ninth inning for a 7-3 win over the FIU Panthers at FIU Baseball Stadium.

“Overall, we’re playing okay, but not quite the way I want to see us play,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “The good thing is we won the game, but we have a lot to improve on. All facets. I want to see us clean things up and play a lot better.

After a deflating 14-4 loss to NC State on Sunday, the Hurricanes’ game against FIU was a battle the whole way through.

FIU (11-7) started fast against Miami’s junior starting pitcher Ronaldo Gallo. In the bottom of the first inning, Indian River State College transfer Ryne Guida singled home junior infielder Dante Girardi and sophomore Marcus O’Malley.

The Hurricanes wouldn’t spend much time down in the game, countering the Panthers’ two runs with a big fly. His first as a ‘Cane, catcher Jack Scanlon lifted a baseball over the right center field wall to score himself and shortstop Dominic Pitelli in the top of the third inning.

“Good things are starting to come, and I feel better up at the plate,” Scanlon said. “I was just trying to put together a good at-bat for the team. Once I hit it, I was just hoping that the ball was going over the wall and wasn’t getting caught.”

Prior to his two-hit day on Wednesday night, Scanlon had only notched one hit in his 14 at-bats.

“He’s been great ever since he stepped foot on campus,” DiMare said. “Super kid. He wants to be coached, wants to be pushed and wants to be better.

Going back and forth again, FIU scored another run on a groundout to second base by Mike Rosario in the fourth. Miami (11-6) would get the run back in the next half frame when Scanlon reached home plate on a wild pitch.

Through five innings, the teams were tied, 3-3.

Gallo was pulled after three innings, giving up two runs on five hits in his time in the game. In relief, 6-foot-1 right-handed pitcher Ben Chestnutt would give up only one run in 1.2 innings of work while the rest of the ‘Canes three relievers would allow no runs to cross the plate.

“Those guys came in and threw strikes,” Scanlon said. “Even if they got punched in the mouth, they competed. They did an excellent job and continued to fight. They didn’t back down.”

FIU used a total of five pitchers, with everyone other than Pittsburgh transfer CJ McKennitt getting exactly two innings of work. Starter Angel Tiburcio finished with two innings pitched, giving up no runs, hits or walks in 20 pitches.

After stranding two runners in the eighth, the ninth inning was exactly what Miami wished it would be. First baseman C.J. Kayfus quickly got aboard, and outfielder Edgardo Villegas would drive him in to break the tie. Piling on insurance runs, junior Zach Levenson would reach on an error by FIU shortstop Steven Ondina, allowing Villegas to come around and score. Ending the inning with a boom, Florida native Jacoby Long mashed a two-run homer to left field to put Miami up 7-3.

Unable to counter, FIU stranded two runners in the ninth and ended the game with a groundout by Figueroa to second baseman Dorian Gonzalez.

Miami reliever and FIU transfer Carlos Lequerica (1-0) earned the win, while McKennitt (2-1) was handed the loss for allowing four runs to the Hurricanes in the ninth.

At the end of the day, when you can win when you aren’t playing your best baseball, that’s always a good thing. Now, we have to get ready for a big series this weekend,” DiMare said.

The ‘Canes now look ahead to the weekend, where they will play three games against the Virginia Tech Hokies. The first game of the series is scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m. on Friday night at Mark Light Field.