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There was not much offense to be found early on Sunday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, but the eighth-ranked Miami Hurricanes battled their way to a series finale victory over the Clemson Tigers by a final score of 4-2.
For the first time all weekend, the Hurricanes used timely hitting deep into the game to give themselves a late advantage. After falling behind in the sixth inning, Miami led off the seventh with back-to-back singles from Chantz Mack and Michael Broad, while a game-winning two-RBI single from sophomore centerfielder Dale Carey gave Miami (21-7, 8-4 ACC) a decisive 3-2 advantage.
Though the Canes salvaged their weekend with an important conference win, Sunday's contest was set up nearly identically to the first two games of the series, both of which ended unfavorably for Miami. But after pouring on eight hits from the fourth inning onward, the contest slowly tilted in the visiting team's favor.
The first inning provided an all-too-familiar sight for Head Coach Jim Morris and his staff, as the Canes fell behind early for the third times in as many games. Clemson took a 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the first, as lead-off hitter Steve Wilkerson got the Tigers (14-13, 5-7 ACC) jumpstarted with a clean bunt single. After getting the next two batters out, junior lefthander Steven Ewing allowed a single up the middle to Clemson designated hitter Phil Pohl that plated Wilkerson from second base.
The Hurricanes continued their offensive struggles from the first two games of the series, as they failed to connect for a hit off starter Kevin Pohle until the third inning. Freshman Esteban Tresgallo's single gave Miami its first baserunner of the day, and the Canes looked to have something going when freshman catcher Garrett Kennedy blooped a single into left-center. Clemson outfielder Thomas Brittle came up with a good throw to third base, however, getting Tresgallo out on the play and effectively ending the threat.
Miami would finally crack the scoreboard in the next inning, and for the second straight game it was an unusual sequence that resulted in a run.
After Perez flew out to left field to open the fourth, senior catcher Peter O'Brien blasted a single through the left side of the infield. On an attempted hit and run, O'Brien was thrown out at second base and Brad Fieger was called for batter intereference, which temporarily cleared the Clemson defense off the field in preparation for the next half-inning. But after gathering to discuss the play, the umpires ruled that Fieger would stay at-bat due to the out that occurred at second. Making the most of his extra pitches, Fieger promptly connected on a single to centerfield. He was driven in on the next play by a double laced to the wall in right field by Rony Rodriguez, tying the game at 1-1.
After a tough first inning, Ewing settled down well in his second conference start of the season. The Orlando, Fla. native, who made his weekend debut for Miami in the team's series finale against Maryland last weekend, struck out five batters in his 5.2-inning stint, using his trademark efficiency to get himself out of jams. One of those came in the sixth , where the Tigers looked poised for an offensive outburst but had to settle for only one run.
Clemson began the inning with back-to-back singles from Jay Baum and Richie Shaffer, giving the Tigers runners on the corners and no outs. After allowing an RBI single up the middle to Pohl, Ewing made a heads-up throw to third, picking off Shaffer for a big out. Kennedy then caught Pohl in a pickle between first and second, which looked to end a potential disastrous inning for the Canes, at that point only down 2-1.
But after walking the next two batters in the inning, Ewing was pulled in favor of Adam Sargent after 76 pitches. Sargent induced a weak grounder that took a tough hop in the shallow infield, loading the bases for the Tigers once again. It took a pop-up induced by new reliever AJ Salcines (3-0) for the Hurricanes to finally get out of the sixth with the score tied 2-1.
After pitchers limited the damage, the Hurricanes offense showed signs of life with timely hits in the seventh inning. With Mike Kent coming on in relief of Pohle, Miami led off the frame with back-to-back singles from Mack and Broad. Reliever Jonathan Meyer was called upon next, and got Tresgallo and pinch-hitter Julian Santos with two big outs, setting the stage for Carey.
The sophomore centerfielder, who entered the game hitting 3-for-7 on the weekend, connected on a rip up the middle that plated both Mack and Broad, giving the Canes their first lead of the weekend. A follow-up triple by Perez gave the Canes a 4-2 advantage, which would turn out to be the final margin of victory.
Junior E.J. Encinosa entered the game in the bottom of the eighth and walked two batters without recording an out. Transfer pitcher Eric Nedeljkovic came on in place of the big righthander, earning his second save of the season with two near perfect innings, shutting the door on Miami's eighth conference win of the season.
The Hurricanes return to action on Wednesday with a home battle against No. 19 UCF before they host fourth-ranked North Carolina at Alex Rodriguez Park for a three-game set beginning April 6.