‘Canes baseball walk off the season opener in J.D. Arteaga’s head coaching debut

Redshirt sophomore outfielder Lorenzo Carrier celebrates hitting a home run by riding in a cart through the dugout at Mark Light Field on Feb. 16, 2024. Photo credit: Trevor Castleman

Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning tied at seven runs a piece, the Hurricanes needed some late-night heroics. Luckily, they got just that as senior catcher Carlos Perez laced a single into left field, bringing in the winning run as Miami defeated New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Highlanders by a score of 8-7 on Friday night at Mark Light Field.

The bottom of the ninth was a UM clinic on the little things of baseball. To get things started in the inning, freshman Daniel Cuvet, in his ‘Canes debut, lined a single into left field with nobody out. Next up, Jacoby Long put down a beautiful bunt (which was initially a sacrifice attempt), so perfect it ended up being a single. Like Long, Dorian Gonzalez Jr. also laid down a perfect bunt to load the bases. One batter later came the hero Perez, who scorched a single through the infield for the Miami win and sent the Light into a frenzy on day one.

Perez said, “It felt great … First game of the season. We battled and we came through. It’s a great feeling.”

While the late-game heroics stole the show, the unsung hero of this game was the Hurricanes bullpen. After a shaky start by Gage Ziehl, who gave up seven earned runs, the bullpen followed up with 4.1 scoreless innings, giving the offense just enough time to get back into and eventually win the game.

The workhorses out of the pen were Julian Hernandez and Nick Roberts, who gave up a combined one hit and one walk in 3.2 innings pitched and killed all NJIT momentum.

Head coach J.D. Arteaga said, “Nick Roberts was outstanding his first time out. Julian was outstanding his first time out. You kind of want to get their feet wet the first time around and they got thrown into the fire right away, and they responded the way we expected them to respond.”

Offensively, UM had its ups and downs. Early on, the offense was on fire. NJIT starter Aidan Kidd had control issues throughout his short start, and the ‘Canes made him pay. After loading the bases on two walks and a hit by pitch, Dorian Gonzalez Jr. came up to the plate and smoked a line drive over the left fielder’s head for a bases-clearing double, putting Miami up 3-0 in the first.

UM tacked on one more in both the second and third innings thanks to a Blake Cyr sacrifice flyout and a Lorenzo Carrier opposite field home run to extend the lead to 5-0.

Following back-to-back rough innings in the field, the Hurricanes trailed 7-5 with the offense at a standstill. The Highlander bullpen was strong in the middle innings, holding the ‘Canes scoreless in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings.

Cyr came to the rescue at just the right time, blasting a shot to dead center field and bringing Mark Light back to life. The Cyr homer sparked a small rally that saw one more run across the plate on a Jason Torres sac-fly, knotting the game at seven. Tying the game up here set the stage for the Miami walk-off in the ninth.

While Ziehl’s stat line may not look pretty, it does not truly represent how he pitched. Ziehl started practically untouchable. He retired six of the first nine batters he faced and was perfect through three innings. The second time through the order, it did not go as Ziehl had planned, and the Highlander lineup succeeded in getting hits. Hopefully, Ziehl can take the dominance he displayed early on and extend it longer in his next start.

Arteaga said, “The first pitch he (Ziehl) threw in the fourth was a home-run and it just kind of snowballed on him a little bit … you’re so amped up and you’re going so good the tendency is just to sometimes to relax mentally.”

The Hurricanes are back in action again with a double-header today against NJIT, with the first pitch of game one at 2 p.m. and the first pitch of game two at 7 p.m. back at Mark Light Field.