In case the University of Miami didn’t get enough of Florida State in a regular-season finale series, the rivals will face each other Saturday afternoon with much more at stake this time around.
The fourth-ranked and top-seeded Hurricanes (45-10) pulled off a late-inning rally on Thursday night to beat North Carolina State 8-7 in their second game at the ACC Baseball Championship to set up a showdown Saturday afternoon with the Seminoles in the Pool A bracket. The winner advances to the ACC title game on Sunday.
“For the last 50 years it has been a tremendous rivalry,” UM coach Jim Morris said. “It’s always an exciting game, a big game, an emotional game. It’s a fun game to play in.”
Well, this game surely was at the top of the charts in terms of excitement and drama, with Edgar Michelangeli — the team’s No. 9 hitter with just eight extra-base hits all season — providing a clutch, game-winning, three-run home run in the ninth inning after the Wolfpack had broken a 5-5 tie with a two-run shot by Chance Shepard in the bottom of the eighth.
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Michelangeli jumped on the first pitch from N.C. State reliever Tommy DeJuneas, hitting a towering blast that sent the Miami bench into a massive celebration.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” the third baseman said. “I knew he was going to come after me, so I was just trying to put the ball in play.”
“I think the fans enjoyed this game,” Morris said. “It was a little wild there.”
Miami and fourth-seeded Florida State are both 2-0 in the round-robin tournament heading into their matchup. The Hurricanes won two of three against the Seminoles in Tallahassee last weekend.
The Hurricanes had been 1-8 when trailing after seven innings this season prior to Thursday’s comeback.
“Miami not only may be the best team in the country, they may be the best team I’ve seen since I’ve been at N.C. State,” veteran Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent said.
In the end it came down to the right arm of closer Bryan Garcia, who allowed two base runners in the bottom of the ninth before closing the door on N.C. State (34-20) for his 15th save of the season and school-record 40th of his career.
And it was another big game for Brandon Lopez, who went 3 for 3 and got on base in all five plate appearances to raise his average to .406.
The Hurricanes drew six walks against N.C. State lefty Sean Adler, a Southern California transfer who was making his first start since 2013, before he was pulled with one out in the third in favor of Evan Brabrand.
Brabrand was promptly greeted by a Lopez home run, which was just his third career long ball in more than 700 at-bats. There was little doubt his towering blast would clear the high wall in left field. The ball traveled 389 feet as the Hurricanes jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Miami’s streak of 12 consecutive shutout innings ended with a thud in the bottom of the fourth when starter Danny Garcia was chased from the mound after allowing six hits in a row to start the inning, including two doubles and two drag bunts that couldn’t be turned into outs as the fifth-seeded Wolfpack took a 5-2 lead.
In a statistical anomaly, Miami had only given up a combined 12 fourth-inning runs in 54 games before N.C. State’s outburst.
But the Hurricanes responded immediately with two runs in the top of the fifth and then tied the score in the eighth when Michelangeli started the inning with a single and came around to score on a bunt single by Christopher Barr.