Dorian Gonzalez Jr.’s walk-off home run lifts Miami over North Carolina in a thriller, 2-1

Junior Dorian Gonzalez, Jr. sprints to home plate before scoring one of his three runs during the second game of the February 17, 2024 double-header 16-0 win against NJIT. Photo credit: Charisma Jones

After an eight-and-a-half-inning pitcher’s duel, Dorian Gonzalez Jr. only took three pitches to end the 1-1 stalemate with a walk-off solo blast over the wall in left-center field, clinching another ACC series victory for the Hurricanes.

After the Miami offense stole the show in game one with a 14-1 win, the opposite was true in game two, as both pitching staffs, led by Miami starter Rafe Schlesinger and UNC starter Jason Decaro, gave complete masterclass performances.

Schlessinger threw 7.0 innings of one-run baseball, with the Tar Heels’ only run coming on an error by third baseman Daniel Cuvet. Decaro threw 6.1 innings of one-run ball, with the ‘Canes lone run coming on a solo shot by Jason Torres.

The only way to describe Schlesinger’s pitching is dominant and gritty. Not only did Schlessinger give up just one run, but he also emptied his tank, delivering an insane 109 pitches while still throwing gas with his pitch count in the 100s.

The key to his success was limiting UNC’s potent top-of-the-lineup. The first four Tar Heel batters combined to go 1-15 off of Miami pitching, including 0-4 and three strikeouts from the potential number one overall pick in the 2024 MLB draft, Vance Honeycutt.

After Schlesinger’s night, the UM bullpen took over right where he left off. Brian Walters and Nick Robert both hung clutch zeros on the board in high-leverage innings to allow the Miami offense to win.

The bats struggled in this game compared to last night’s eruption and the previous weekend’s hitting parade but came through when it mattered most.

After being shut out for six innings, Torres gave the team and the fans a spark after he took a significant gamble swinging at a 3-0 fastball, lacing it over the center-field fence and just out of the reach of Honeycutt.

As Robert struck out Honeycutt to end the top half of the ninth, you could feel all the momentum shift into the Hurricane dugout, and it felt as if there was no way Miami was going to lose the game. Gonzalez Jr. then had the swing of the night in what could be a win that the Hurricanes look back on in May as one of their best overall wins of the season.

All this being said, the stage is set for the ‘Canes to get a top-15 series sweep before UM heads out on the road next weekend to Notre Dame for its first away series of the season. A big sweep and some momentum would be massive to bring to South Bend to try and stay unbeaten in the ACC series to begin the season.

Herick Hernandez will be on the bump tomorrow as Miami will take on North Carolina back at Mark Light Field at 1 p.m. looking for the sweep on Saint Patrick’s Day.