University of Miami

UM’s hopes of hosting a regional take a hit with loss to Duke

Miami Hurricanes pitcher Evan McKendry (14), shown in this Feb. 15, 2019, file photo, throws against Rutgers. McKendry (6-2) made his first start Friday, May 17, 2019, since April 19, when he left after just one inning against Louisville due to elbow tightness.
Miami Hurricanes pitcher Evan McKendry (14), shown in this Feb. 15, 2019, file photo, throws against Rutgers. McKendry (6-2) made his first start Friday, May 17, 2019, since April 19, when he left after just one inning against Louisville due to elbow tightness. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The Miami Hurricanes’ hopes for hosting an NCAA regional were damaged a bit on Friday night by a 12-3 home loss to the Duke Blue Devils.

Miami (37-17, 17-12 ACC) will play Duke (30-22, 15-13) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the rubber game of the final regular-season series of the year. The Hurricanes are a cinch to snap a two-year drought and qualify for the NCAA postseason, but they want to get greedy now.

They want to have the regionals in their house, and that’s why this Duke series is vital.

Prior to Friday’s game, D1Baseball.com writer/editor Aaron Fitt told The Herald:

“If the Canes can win this last series against Duke, they can pretty much lock in a regional hosting spot. Teams that finish 18-12 or better in the ACC with RPIs inside the top 16 almost always host, and Miami will check all those boxes. And it helps that Miami has finished red-hot because momentum matters to the selection committee, too.”

Miami wasn’t quite so hot on Friday, however. Evan McKendry (6-2) made his first start since April 19, when he left after just one inning against Louisville due to elbow tightness.

On Friday, McKendry was on a pitch restriction and was able to breeze through his first three innings. But Duke struck for five runs in the fourth, breaking open what had been a scoreless game.

McKendry’s final numbers: one hit, three walks, two runs and two strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.

It was a promising performance, given his injury absence, and the Hurricanes are now set to enter next week’s ACC Tournament with five capable starters: ace Brian Van Belle, pro prospects McKendry and Chris McMahon (who will start Saturday), Slade Cecconi and Tyler Keysor.

The back end of Miami’s bullpen is also in good shape with Greg Veliz and Daniel Federman, and the offense has been prolific, led by the big bats of Adrian Del Castillo, Raymond Gil, who hit his 11th homer of the season on Friday, and Alex Toral, who has hit 21 bombs this year.

Miami’s issues have been in middle relief and on defense. Miami’s bullpen gave up 10 runs on Friday, and the Canes defense was charged with three errors.

Walks were also a problem. McKendry allowed a pair of one-out free passes in the fourth, and reliever Mark Mixon couldn’t stop the bleeding. He gave up three straight hits and was removed without getting an out. The Canes needed two more relievers to escape the inning, and it only got worse from there for Miami.

The Miami Hurricanes’ hopes for hosting an NCAA regional were damaged a bit on Friday night by a 12-3 home loss to the Duke Blue Devils.

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