Jesse Lepore and Romy Gonzalez following season-opening victory
Did someone say “small ball?’’
That someone was University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris earlier in the week, when he noted that UM was “not going to be a power team.’’
But in the second inning of the Hurricanes’ season opener Friday night at Mark Light Field, sophomore Romy Gonzalez blasted a two-run homer far beyond the left-field fence to flex some muscle and put the Canes up 2-0 en route to a 3-0 victory over Rutgers.
Right-handed junior Jesse Lepore was dominant in his first Friday-night start on the mound for the Canes, allowing two hits, no walks and no runs in his six innings, with seven strikeouts for the victory.
“Every win is big,’’ Morris said, “But of course the opening game is special. I thought we played a complete game. It was a very good team win, starting with pitching and defense, and of course Romy’s home run to get us a couple runs.
“…We’re going to hit a few home runs,’’ the coach added. “I didn’t say we weren’t going to hit any. But we’re not going to live or die with the home run. If we do we’re in trouble.
“Romy got all that one, no question about it.’’
Morris did predict that his team would “not score that many runs.’’
The Hurricanes had only four hits, including Gonzalez’s second career homer and junior-college transfer Brandon Gali’s single, also in the second inning. Gonzalez knocked home Edgar Michelangeli, who had walked.
“I think we’ll hit a couple of home runs,’’ Gonzalez said. “We lost a lot of guys like Willie [Abreu] and Zack [Collins] and those are guys that are pretty hard to replace. We just gotta execute the small-ball game, like we always do, and I think we’ll be alright.’’
Designated hitter Johnny Ruiz singled and scored UM’s third run in the eighth on a two-out error by Rutgers second baseman Christian Campbell.
In his 14 career starts, Lepore is now 10-0.
“As Coach Morris always says, pitching and defense is the backbone of this team,’’ Lepore said. “And I feel like we help to prove that each and every game. From the beginning I thought I was locked in. I felt pretty comfortable.’’
Lepore was replaced in the seventh by sophomore righty Andrew Cabezas, who immediately got in trouble by walking sophomore Jawuan Harris, a Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas alum. Harris stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. But Cabezas got Tom Marcinczyk to foul out, struck out Nick Matera looking and ended the inning by drawing a ground out to first.
UM first baseman Chris Barr, a dominant defensive player, entered the game in the seventh because Morris was being wary after Barr’s back surgery in December. Turns out that Barr made two of the three outs that inning to stifle the Scarlet Knights.
Cabezas allowed the only other hit by Rutgers.
Closer Frankie Bartow came in to get the final three outs and earn his first save for UM.
Before the game, former UM football star Artie Burns, who just completed his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, threw out the first pitch.
The crowd observed moments of silence for UM coach Jim Morris’ father, James W. Morris Jr., who died late last year; the late Bob McDaniel, the father of director of baseball operations and camps Robert McDaniel.
The series continues 7 p.m. Saturday, with junior-college transfer Jeb Bargfeldt making his first start for the Canes.