When officials canceled the Miami Hurricanes’ Thursday-night baseball game against North Carolina because of torrential rain and rescheduled for a Friday doubleheader, no one could have imagined what would ensue.
Hurricanes senior Tyler Palmer drove home two runs with a walk-off single in the 16th inning Friday to lift the Hurricanes to a 6-5 victory in the first game of the doubleheader – tying the longest home game in UM history.
Palmer had five hits in eight at-bats in the 5-hour, 5-minute marathon to lift his average to .308 and give the Canes their 26th victory in the past 28 games.
"This is a dream come true,’’ Palmer said before the second game began and after the Hurricane seniors were introduced on Mark Light Field with their families. "I never imagined my senior day being like this. It doesn’t get much better.’’
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By the time the Hurricanes came to their senses, however, they were down 11-1 after four innings of the second game late Friday. They went on to lose 11-2. Game No. 2 UM starter Andy Suarez allowed a career-high seven runs, all earned, in two innings pitched.
In the first game, Alex Hernandez, who went 3 for 7, tied the score at 4-4 with an eighth-inning double.
The seventh-ranked Hurricanes are 39-15 overall and lead the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 23-6 record. The 23 wins match UM’s best league showing for a season.
North Carolina is 32-22 and 15-14.
Reliever Javi Salas pitched five innings in relief to earn the UM victory. He allowed one run on five hits and one walk. It was the longest relief effort by UM since 2012.
Also pitching for UM in Game No. 1: starter Chris Diaz and relievers Thomas Woodrey and Bryan Garcia. Diaz allowed four earned runs on nine hits, three walks and two wild pitches. He struck out eight.
The Tar Heels used five pitchers, with Trevor Kelley allowing two runs on three hits in one inning for the loss.
David Thompson joined the Canes’ lineup at first base Friday after missing 32 games because of major surgery on March 24. Doctors had to remove one of Thompson’s ribs to alleviate a blood clot caused by thoracic outlet syndrome. Thompson had two hits, scored two runs and walked in the first game.
He started the next game at first base and was moved from eighth in the lineup to cleanup hitter.
In the 16th inning, Miami loaded the bases, with Dale Carey (infield single) on first, Ricky Eusebio (walk) on second and Thompson (fielder’s choice) on third, before Palmer laced his game-winning hit through the right side.
The Canes celebrated with a massive pileup in right field, as most of the 2,568 fans at Alex Rodriguez erupted with cheers.
"It was a fastball away,’’ Palmer said of the pitch by the right-handed Kelley that resulted in the game-winner. "Kelley was throwing from pretty much behind my back, and I just stayed on it and drove it to the opposite field. He was working me away. Thankfully it ended the game.’’
The Hurricanes are now 3-0 in 16-inning games at home. The longest game in UM history came in 2000 at Florida State, where Miami lost 14-13.
The Hurricanes meet the Tar Heels in the regular-season finale at noon Saturday (ESPNU), with left-handed senior Bryan Radziewski (6-2, 3.38 ERA) scheduled to pitch for UM and right-handed freshman Zac Gallen (5-3, 4.43) starting for UNC.
Miami, which hasn’t advanced to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., since 2008, jumped to No. 10 this week in college baseball’s RPI.
The Canes also rose in the rankings to as high as No. 4 in Collegiate Baseball, with Baseball America ranking UM seventh and the USA Today coaches’ poll, 12th.
Miami travels to Greensboro, N.C. on Sunday for the ACC tournament that begins Tuesday. A series victory against the Tar Heels coupled with a strong showing next week could secure Miami one of eight national seeds for the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament that begins May 30 with the first-round regionals.
The College World Series begins June 14.