The Miami Hurricanes couldn’t have started their NCAA Tournament run any stronger on Friday night at The Light. Runs poured for them all night against the Maine Black Bears en route to a 9-`1 win in the Coral Gables Regional.
The scoring came from what this Miami team is known for: home runs.
Outfielder Edgardo Villegas started the home run party with a two-run shot in the second ‘Cane at-bat of the game to give Miami the early 2-0 lead.
“Our talk before the game was to get out in front early. Couldn’t script it better with the home run out of the gate,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said.
Yohandy Morales and Zach Levenson appeared at the home-run fest to extend the Hurricanes’ lead to seven and then to nine. Morales’ home run was his 17th of the season, the highest tally for the Miami team.
“It was special,” Morales said. “But the main thing is winning, and we came out with the win, so that’s the most important thing.”
To hit the multiple-run homers, Miami had put many men on base beforehand. Eight out of nine Miami starting batters made it on base, primarily thanks to the 11 hits the ‘Canes had.
Miami’s pitching was also outstanding.
Starter Gage Ziehl showed out in his career-first NCAA Tournament start. He struck out seven hitters in his six innings pitched and allowed no earned runs. His seventh strikeout, which came in the third inning against Maine center fielder Colin Plant, was his 100th strikeout of the entire season.
“I knew my job was to go out there and set the tone, and that’s what I did,” Ziehl said.
In relief for Ziehl, Alejandro Rosario, Ben Chestnutt and Sebastian Perez didn’t allow a single Maine run in the final three innings. Rosario, who has been generally featured as a starter throughout the regular season, has impressed as a reliever in the postseason. In the 5.2 innings he’s pitched between tonight’s performance and in the ACC Tournament win against Wake Forest, he has allowed only four hits and one run.
“Our mindset was to save our bullpen,” DiMare said. “We did not want to go into our bullpen opening night, so we started Gage. We felt he gave us the best chance to save our bullpen.”
With a win under its belt, Miami will face the second seed of the Coral Gables Regional: the Texas Longhorns, who won the other Friday matchup against Louisiana, 4-2. Both Miami and Texas have had great success making it to Omaha.
“We played them in Omaha a few times,” DiMare said. “Two of the more storied college programs, the two teams that have made it to the College World Series the most.”
The first pitch at Mark Light Field is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday.