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February 16, 2013

Canes sweep season-opening doubleheader

The Miami Hurricanes swept their season opening doubleheader vs. Rutgers.

The Canes took game one in dramatic fashion on a Garrett Kennedy walk off single after blowing a late lead. In the nightcap the Canes came out strong and didn't look back in a 7-inning contest due to Friday's postponement.

The Canes were scheduled to open their season Friday night until rain forced the game to be postponed.

"I was the last one to want to cancel" Coach Jim Morris said. "It was disappointing to me because I wanted to play and I hate double headers."

Despite having his start delayed a day sophomore pitcher Chris Diaz put forth a strong effort throwing 6 innings, while allowing 5 hits and only 1 unearned run.

Both Rutgers and Miami struggled with the bats early on as the game was scoreless entering the 5th inning. Then Rutgers got on the board first in the top of the 5th after RF Steve Zavalla, who reached base on an error, scored on an RBI single by LF Vinny Zarrillo. Diaz was able to escape the inning without allowing another run, forcing Rutgers into an inning ending double play.

After a scoreless bottom of the 5th for the Canes, Diaz got three consecutive outs in the top of the 6th. The Canes finally scored in the bottom of the sixth when LF Michael Broad started a rally by getting hit by a pitch. Shortstop Brandon Lopez followed with a walk that advanced Broad to 2nd. Leadoff hitter Tyler Palmer then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Broad to 3rd and Lopez to 2nd. 2nd Baseman Alex Hernandez came up with an RBI single deep in the hole at shortstop, which scored Broad tying the game at 1 and advancing Lopez to 3rd. After a Chantz Mack strikeout, freshman 1B David Thompson came up with a big bases clearing single scoring Lopez and Hernandez giving the Canes a 3-1 lead.

Thompson played well in his first appearances as a Hurricane, combining for 4 RBI on two hits in the two games.

"It felt good to produce, hopefully I'll be able to drive in some more runs," said Thompson.

​After 6 innings of work Diaz was relieved by P Eric Nedeljkovic who would go on to pitch a scoreless 7th and 8th for the Canes. Entering the top of the 9th the Canes looked to be in good shape with pre-season All-ACC Closer Aj Salcines taking the mound. Salcines struggled mightily in the 9th, though, blowing the save opportunity allowing 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks. The Canes were reeling entering the bottom of the 9th needing a late rally to salvage the game trailing 4-3.

Chris Barr replaced David Thompson in the 7th inning and led off with a walk. Dale Carey followed with another walk advancing Barr to 2nd. Catcher Alex San Juan laid down a well-executed Bunt, moving Barr to 3rd and Carey to 2nd. Next up was 3B Brad Fieger, who was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. C Garrett Kennedy was sent in to pinch-hit and came up to bat with the Canes needing one run to tie and two to win the game. Kennedy dropped a walk-off single into right that was played poorly by Rutgers, allowing both Barr and Carey to score easily.

"I was trying to get a good pitch and put a good swing on it," said Kennedy. "He threw it away and I did pull off of it a little bit but it feels good for us and it was a good victory."

Despite blowing the save Salcines was credited with the win and SP Chris Diaz took a No Decision.

​In Game two on a cold night in Coral Gables the Canes came out hot early. After pitching a scoreless top half, the Canes scored two runs with two outs in the bottom half of the first. The Canes had two consecutive base runners caught stealing at second base after a single and a walk to start the game. Mack was at bat with 2 outs and hit a Ground rule double. Following Mack, Thompson came up with another two out RBI, Doubling down the left field line. With Thompson on second Dale Carey came through with a two out triple driving Thompson home.

"I was excited the way we swung the bat, said Morris. "Of course we had a couple guys thrown out there in the first inning, kind of ran ourselves out of a big inning, but the fact is we have to try and put pressure since we're not a power team."

In the top of the 3rd inning after two quick groundouts, Rutgers got two consecutive singles and were aided by a hit batter to load the bases. Starter Javi Salas was able to get out of the jam, forcing a dribbling ground ball back to the mound that he easily handled.

Again in the top of the 4th Rutgers was able to get runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs, but again Salas was able to work his way out of the inning forcing a fly ball to left.

Salas did run into some trouble in the 5th when he allowed a leadoff double, which led to a Rutgers sacrifice to move the runner to 3rd. Then Salas made his only big mistake of the game, throwing a pitch in the dirt that got by catcher Garrett Kennedy, allowing the runner to score. Salas was able to escape the inning with only one run scored, but the game had tightened up at 2-1.

The Canes got one run in the bottom of the 5th inning when Thompson was able to drive in Alex Hernandez, who had doubled earlier in the inning, with a slow grounder to the 3rd base. The Canes were able to pick up one more insurance run in the bottom of the 6th when 3B Brad Fienger hit a sacrifice fly to drive in DH Alex San Juan from 3rd.

P Thomas Woodrey relieved Salas in the 7th and shut down the Rutgers lineup, giving Salas his first win of the season, while Woodrey received his first save of the season.

"I thought our guys played well," said Morris. "It was a good day for us, you win two, you can't get much better than that."

The Hurricanes take on Rutgers at 2 p.m. on Sunday in Coral Gables for the Series Finale.

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