Hurricanes win twice to complete sweep of ranked Hokies

Sophomore pitcher Gage Ziehl throws a pitch during Miami's 8-1 win over North Carolina State on Saturday, March 11, 2023, at Mark Light Field. Photo credit: Reese Putnam

When Miami Hurricanes first baseman CJ Kayfus started his Saturday, he wasn’t having a bad season. A .299 hitter through his 18 prior games, Kayfus decided this wasn’t enough and led Miami with a 7-for-9 day, driving in 7 RBI with three home runs.

In a rare Saturday doubleheader, Miami took the first game, 21-6, over Virginia Tech before coming back from a six-run deficit in the second game of the day to win 12-9 and complete the series sweep at Mark Light Field.

“I can’t imagine a hitter more confident than him the country right now,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said of Kayfus. “He can hit it all over the field. He’s pulling the ball, hitting the ball up the middle and hitting it to let field. That’s his MO and that’s what he does. That’s why he’s one of the better hitters in the country.”

In the first of two games, Miami started slowly but progressed exponentially. Virginia Tech (12-7, 1-5 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)) starter and sophomore Drue Hackenberg didn’t allow any runs until the third inning. Once Hackenberg did allow a run, Virginia Tech began to unravel.

The Hurricanes scratched for four runs in the third inning via an RBI double by outfielder Zach Levenson, an RBI single by freshman Blake Cyr and a two-run homer by shortstop Dominic Pitelli.

Pulled after 4.2 innings, Hackenberg allowed seven runs on 10 hits, walking two batters while earning four strikeouts in 87 pitches. On the contrary, Miami starter Gage Ziehl went five innings and allowed one run on five hits, walking three batters with eight strikeouts.

As the UM (14-6, 5-1 ACC) lead grew in the first game, it was the seventh inning that put the nail in the coffin.

Scoring 10 runs in the inning, Miami tallied seven hits in the seventh frame with Kayfus, Nevada transfer Dario Gomez and catcher Carlos Perez all hitting home runs.

“Honestly, I’m just super excited to see that we’re playing the baseball that we all knew we could,” Kayfus said. “It’s just awesome to be a part of this team. Everybody has each other’s backs.”

Closing the first game out with a 21-6 win, Miami set a new season high in runs in a game (21) and home runs in a game (7).

“I’m proud of our players,” DiMare said. “Sweeping a doubleheader doesn’t happen very often. It’s extremely hard to do, but you’ve got to give a lot of credit to our hitters.”

Virginia Tech started strong in the second game, playing with a significant lead as the sun set upon the field in Coral Gables, Fla. The Hokies jumped out to a 6-0 lead on Miami starter Alejandro Rosario. The ninth man in the order, designated hitter Sam Tackett hit a grand slam in the second inning and did much of the damage against Miami.

The Hurricanes chipped away at the Virginia Tech lead. Closing the gap to 9-6 at the start of the eighth inning, UM batted around the order in one inning for the second time in as many games.

To start the eighth inning, Miami put left fielder Edgardo Villegas on base with a walk. Then, a soft groundball to Hokies third baseman Carson DeMartini was misplayed for an error, allowing all runners to reach safely. Turning a small mistake into a big result, UM followed the error with four straight RBI hits and drove in two more in the inning thanks to sacrifice flies from Perez and Kayfus.

“This is what we come here for,” sophomore Gaby Gutierrez said. “We’re dogs and we’re here to fight. There’s no quit in this team.”

Leading 12-9 entering the ninth inning, closer Andrew Walters returned for the first time in two weeks and earned his second save of the season without giving up a run.

In the first game, Hackenberg was handed the loss (1-2), while Ziehl (3-2) earned the win. In the second game, Hokies reliever Kiernan Higgins (1-1) was given the loss while ‘Canes right-hander Alejandro Torres picked up the win (2-0).

Miami will return to Mark Light Field for a 6:00 p.m. game against Florida Atlantic on Wednesday night.