Evan McKendry pitched a career game, Edgar Michelangeli laced a 3-run double and the University of Miami defeated Florida Gulf Coast 5-1 Tuesday night in the first of its four remaining regular-season games before it heads to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
The Hurricanes, now 26-26 overall and 13-13 in the ACC, need to have an above .500 winning percentage after next week’s league tournament to even be considered by the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee for selection to the field-of-64 NCAA tournament.
“I don’t want to put the pressure on our guys and say that you’ve got to win every game,’’ UM coach Jim Morris said. “But I think every game is very important – I’ll put it that way – this weekend and in the ACC when we get there.
“To see McKendry go out and pitch the game the way he pitched is very, very important going into the [ACC] tournament. We played good defense, and of course Edgar’s big hit was huge to kind of take the pressure off. No question, the pressure was on everybody.”
Because UM’s April 5 victory against St. Thomas, an NAIA school, doesn’t count toward its winning percentage as it pertains to NCAA qualifying, it’s as if UM has a 25-26 record in that regard.
When asked if in any way he regrets having St. Thomas on his schedule, Morris said he has always played the neighboring team. “This is my 24th year and we’ve never been in this position on the bubble like we’re on the bubble right now. ..It’s been kind of a friendly rivalry. My first game at Miami I think was St. Thomas. Miami and St. Thomas were playing long before I got here.
“Of course I’d like to have another ‘W,’ no question about that.’’
The Canes played very well Tuesday, led by freshman Evan McKendry’s superb pitching performance. The right-hander (4-2, 3.24 ERA) allowed only two hits in a career-long-tying seven innings and struck out a career-high 10 batters.
Andrew Cabezas and closer Frankie Bartow split the final two innings, with only one hit given up between them.
“I felt good,’’ McKendry said. “The first couple of innings I had trouble controlling my fastball, but once I got that settled, I felt good. Great defensive plays behind me made it a lot easier. Hopefully we can play well this weekend and carry this win into Thursday, Friday and Saturday.’’
Leadoff hitter Carl Chester hit his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot to left-center in the fourth inning, and the Canes got their final run in the sixth after a throwing error to first on a potential double-play ball.
Chester said the Hurricanes’ mindset now is “same as always. Go in like a new day. Keep playing like we’ve been playing. Keep swinging the bat and just take it day by day.’’
UM’s third inning was the clincher, as Michelangeli’s double to right field brought home Johnny Ruiz (walk), Romy Gonzalez (single) and Hunter Tackett (hit by pitch).
Florida Gulf Coast, which had beaten UM twice previously this season, fell to 34-17.
“Anything can happen,’’ Morris said. “You’ve just got to play one game at a time hard. You’ve got to make sure your guys are playing hard and they’re having fun. I’m trying to do both.”
The Hurricanes meet Virginia Tech (23-29, 9-18), which beat Old Dominion on Tuesday, at home in the final three-game series of the regular season Thursday through Saturday.