University of Miami

UM baseball team opens season with 4-1 win over Rutgers

Video: UM baseball coach Jim Morris talks season-opening win

UM baseball coach Jim Morris talks about the Canes' 4-1 win over Rutgers on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. Video by Susan Miller Degnan.
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UM baseball coach Jim Morris talks about the Canes' 4-1 win over Rutgers on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. Video by Susan Miller Degnan.

The University of Miami’s road to Omaha began Friday with an opening-night victory at Mark Light Field.

But the trip was more of a leisurely spin than a sprint for the sixth-ranked Hurricanes.

The Canes scored three single runs in the first five innings, then added another in the eighth for the 4-1 win over Rutgers in front of 3,299 rowdy fans. It was UM’s ninth consecutive opening-night victory.

“I thought it was a solid team game,’’ said UM coach Jim Morris, who has led Miami to the College World Series 12 times, including last season, since he began coaching the Canes in 1994. “I’m very excited the way a lot of guys played. I’m always a little pumped up for that first game.

“We had a really good season last year, and we have high expectations.’’

The Canes finished 50-17 last year and were the fifth national seed entering the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

They started their 2016 campaign with veterans and youngsters contributing to the cause.

Junior right fielder Willie Abreu (2 for 3, 2 RBI) hit UM’s first home run of the season over the left-field fence in the fourth.

“It felt good,’’ Abreu said. “Anytime you can run into one it’s a pretty good feeling.’’

UM third baseman Romy Gonzalez, a Hialeah Senior High graduate who was the only freshman to start for the Canes, earned his first collegiate hit in the fifth with a leadoff double that caromed off the left-field-corner fence.

He went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Carl Chester and scored on Chris Barr’s sacrifice fly, putting UM ahead 3-1.

“I thought I had it for a second, but that wind — it’s hard to beat the wind,” Gonzalez said.

“I’m not as big as Willie, so it’s hard to take it out. But it was a great feeling to finally get on base to help my team and get my first career hit out of the way. When I step on that field I just want to help my team win in any way I can.’’

UM got on the scoreboard in the first inning with singles by Barr and Jacob Heyward, putting runners at the corners before Abreu singled to drive home Barr for the 1-0 Canes lead.

Rutgers came back in the third with a leadoff home run to left by John Jennings to tie it at 1.

The Canes’ final run was scored by Heyward on a sac fly by Johnny Ruiz.

Peter Crocitto and Edgar Michelangeli each added two hits for UM.

Left-handed senior Thomas Woodrey earned the victory, allowing four hits and the one earned run in five innings. He struck out four and walked one.

Right-handed freshman Frankie Bartow made his collegiate debut, allowing only one hit and one walk in two innings of relief. Cooper Hammond and closer Bryan Garcia each pitched one inning.

Howie Brey allowed eight hits and three earned runs over six innings to take the loss. He struck out seven Hurricanes.

Abreu credited his coaches for Miami’s nine-year streak of opening-night victories.

“That is a testament to the coaching we have and the guys that obviously lead this team,’’ he said. “The only guys that have been here for nine years are the coaches. You can tell they’re doing their job. We’re ready to go from Day 1.’’

The Canes will continue the series at 7 p.m. Saturday, with left-handed junior Michael Mediavilla making his first career start for UM.

Rutgers will go with right-handed sophomore John O’Reilly.

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