The Miami Hurricanes, fueled by exceptional pitching in both ends of a doubleheader, refuse to surrender en route to their goal of making it to the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament.
The Canes won their second and third games in a row against Virginia Tech on Friday with 4-2 and 3-1 gems pitched by left-handed junior Jeb Bargfeldt and right-handed freshman Greg Veliz, respectively, at Mark Light Field.
Veliz (5-4, 3.51 ERA) had a career night, allowing one run on four hits with 13 strikeouts, more than any UM pitcher this season and his most Ks since he struck out 16 as a 12-year-old. He did not walk a batter.
“It feels good,’’ he said.
Joe Gomez had a solo homer in the third inning of the second game, followed by an RBI-single by Michael Burns the same inning to put the Canes ahead for good.
“As a team I feel like we’re really confident right now,’’ said Gomez, who caught both games. “We’re doing everything we need to do to put it together.’’
Gomez said Veliz, whose pitches consistently hit 96 and 97 miles an hour, “didn’t miss a spot. He was making my job easy. His fastball was great; his slider was even better. He was just pounding the zone.’’
As for ace Bargfeldt, for the second consecutive week he watched the rain pour down during what should have been his start on Thursday night.
Then, Bargfeldt again waited an extra day for that start, dominating the first end of a weather-induced doubleheader.
Bargfeldt (7-3), whose 2.20 earned run average leads the Hurricanes and 1.63 ERA in league play leads the Atlantic Coast Conference, lasted seven innings and allowed one earned run on four hits and one walk – including the solo homer by Jack Owens in the third inning late Friday afternoon.
UM improved to 28-26 and 15-13 in the ACC after Friday’s wins.
The Hokies fell to 23-31 and 9-20.
“It was a big day for us,’’ UM coach Jim Morris said. “I still think we have a chance where we’re at. We had some injuries early [this season] that really affected our win-loss record… and our young pitching has really come on. [Evan] McKendry is throwing outstanding and Veliz is throwing outstanding and of course Jeb has pitched outstanding…[Andrew] Cabezas...’’
Last week at Charlottesville, Bargfeldt pitched a three-hitter, the first complete game by a Hurricane starter since May 2015, defeating No. 10 Virginia.
“I kept my mindset the same,’’ Bargfeldt said of the repeat doubleheader scenario. “I wanted to keep the bullpen as strong and as fresh as possible.’’
Both teams are battling for crucial goals. UM plays its final regular-season game against the Hokies at 1 p.m. Saturday, then heads to Louisville on Sunday for the ACC tournament. The Canes are in jeopardy of ending their nation-leading 44-year NCAA tournament streak. They would likely have to win the tournament to get an automatic NCAA berth if they don’t sustain a long enough winning streak to at least get them in the ACC title game for a possible at-large berth.
The Hokies are still fighting to get one of the final spots in the league tournament.
Offensively, eight of nine UM starters recorded at least one hit in the opener.
Bargfeldt, a junior-college transfer, is 6-2 in his last eight starts.
“Just locating the fastball,’’ Bargfeldt said of his success Friday. “The game gets a lot easier when you’re able to do that. Even though I didn’t have great command of other pitches, as long as it was put in play, the defense once again made several spectacular plays.”
Right-handed junior Jesse Lepore (1-5, 4.72 ERA) will start for UM Saturday. The Hokies had not announced their starter.