It was a narrative the University of Miami baseball team had heard once already this season – a Saturday night opposing starter that was going to be tough to hit.
First it was top-ranked Florida’s A.J. Puk, projected to go as high as first overall in mock drafts, on the second weekend of the season. On Saturday night, the sixth-ranked Hurricanes faced Louisville left-hander Brendan McKay, a sophomore who came in with a 4-0 record, 0.33 ERA and last season won national freshman of the year honors in four different publications.
When it was Puk, he didn’t make it through the third inning and took the loss. Sixth-ranked Miami showed the same fearlessness against McKay, touching him up for four runs – which matched his career high – and notching a 6-3 victory against No. 4 Louisville in a game televised on ESPN U at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.
With the win following Friday night’s walk-off grand slam, UM (16-3, 4-1 ACC) has taken the first two of the critical early-season ACC three-game set from the Cardinals, looking for the sweep Sunday afternoon. It’s the first-ever ACC series loss for Louisville (15-4, 3-2), which joined the conference last season and won its regular season title.
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“As I told our team, I felt this was the type of team you’ve got to beat to get to Omaha,” Miami coach Jim Morris said. “You need to beat these type clubs if you’re going to do what you want to do and go where you want to go, and that’s Omaha.”
Miami sophomore starter Michael Mediavilla is making a name for himself as a Saturday starter that should be equally as feared, having now beaten the two elite pitching foes. He surrendered just one run on five hits and a walk and striking out five.
“[My mindset is] beat them every inning. Obviously putting up a zero beats them every inning. At the end of the day, we put up runs, I shut them down the next inning – keeps us up,” said Mediavilla, who improved to 4-0. “It’s just learning from my other outings, getting ahead of batters.”
Mediavilla faced the minimum through four before giving up a run in the fifth and having to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.
The Canes’ offense forced McKay to labor. He walked five and threw 100 pitches, making his exit after 5 1/3 innings.
Jacob Heyward broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth when he blasted a two-run home run over the scoreboard above the left-field wall on a full-count delivery from McKay.
“I think after that point [McKay] didn’t pitch quite as well,” Morris said. “You knew it was gone when he hit it. He got it right on the screws.”
The Cardinals cut that lead in half in the fifth when catcher Colby Fitch singled home McKay, who doubles as a cleanup man in the order and led off the frame with a double to left-center. Miami got that run back in the bottom of the inning courtesy of a Zack Collins sacrifice fly.
UM added another run in the sixth on a Randy Batista sacrifice fly and scored a pair of insurance runs in the eighth in between Louisville runs in the top of the eighth and ninth.
“I think we did a great job [Saturday] all around, just finishing innings hitting-wise,” Heyward said. “To me, this is better than how we were last year. If I didn’t hit a home run, someone else would’ve hit a home run – just getting the job done as a team.”
Bryan Garcia earned his seventh save getting the final four outs.
UM hosted its first “Bark in the Park” event Saturday where fans were encouraged to purchase a $12 package allowing for entrance with a dog to sit in the foul-territory right field bleachers with portions of proceeds going to Humane Society of Greater Miami.
Sunday afternoon’s series finale, originally scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. first pitch, was moved up to 12:30 p.m. due to the possibility of inclement weather.