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The sixth-ranked Miami Hurricanes and Virginia Tech Hokies resumed their weekend series on a picturesque Saturday afternoon for baseball at English Field. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, the result of the game was not nearly as appealing, as the Hokies set the series up for a decisive rubber match Sunday with a 5-4 win.
The Hurricanes bullpen, which entered the game with only one earned run allowed in the previous 27 combined innings, allowed two costly runs late in the game. Eric Nedeljkovic allowed a run in the eighth to tie the game up at 4-4, while the Hokies walked off on a bases-loaded walk issued by sophomore sidewinder Adam Sargent (0-2) to tie the series at one game apiece.
It was the Hurricanes who struck early once again on Saturday, opening the game's scoring in the first inning on an RBI double from Peter O'Brien. Virginia Tech starter Marc Zecchino would begin the game by plunking Tyler Palmer, and centerfielder Dale Carey promptly advanced Palmer on a clean sacrifice bunt. O'Brien then crushed a ball off the left field wall for his team-leading eleventh double of the season, driving in Palmer to give the Canes an early one-run advantage.
Zecchino would settle down after the first inning, however, allowing no hits until the fourth, when the Hurricanes (25-10, 12-5 ACC) tacked on their second run of the game. After outfielder Chantz Mack led off the frame with a single, Stephen Perez helped execute a perfect hit-and-run that advanced Mack to third and gave Miami runners on the corners with only one out.
Junior designated hitter Michael Broad, who finished Friday night's game 2-for-3 with two doubles, then attempted a rare squeeze play in an effort to plate Mack. His bunt ended up right in the glove of Zecchino, however, who made an easy play to catcher Mark Zagunis to tag Mack out at home. It was only through ensuing back-to-back walks, including a bases-loaded, four-pitch rendition to Palmer, that gave the Hurricanes a 2-0 advantage.
Some untimely lapses from the Hurricanes defense in the bottom of the frame would help the Hokies tie the game up. On what looked like a routine flyball from Tyler Horan to begin the inning, Mack misjudged the route of the ball and ended up chasing after it towards the left field wall. Horan then advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt from Johnny Morales, and was driven in on an RBI single from designated hitter Ronnie Shaban.
With one run already in, Mark Zagunis' single gave Virginia Tech two runners on with only one out. Two batters later, Brendon Hayden connected on a weak groundball to the right side of the infield that may have ended the inning. But a miscommunication between first baseman Esteban Tresgallo and second baseman Jarred Mederos allowed the ball to slip right through, plating Shaban and tying the game at two runs apiece.
The Hurricanes would atone for their errors by plating two more runs in the top of the fifth. Back-to-back hits from Brad Fieger and Chantz Mack gave the Canes runners on the corners. Mederos then hit a chopper to third as Fieger took off for home. The throw from Pinder to Zagunis would hit Fieger in the back, as the Naples, Fla. native slid home safely to regain a 3-2 lead. A walk to Stephen Perezwould load the bases, and Michael Broad's fielder's choice plated Mack to extend the lead to 4-2.
AJ Salcines pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, but the Hokies struck for runs off both Nedeljkovic and Sargent for a comeback win. The Hurricanes and Hokies will return to English Field for the rubber match on Sunday, with first pitch set for noon.