Early deficits haven’t bothered the University of Miami baseball team lately.
For the sixth consecutive game, UM shook off an early deficit and secured victory, this time beating North Carolina 7-4 in front of 3,125 at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field on Sunday afternoon.
The third-ranked Hurricanes (23-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their seventh in a row and 18th in their past 20 games, and secured their second consecutive series sweep against a ranked ACC opponent.
UM’s win over ninth-ranked North Carolina (20-7, 6-6) was its ninth over a ranked opponent and gave the Hurricanes a four-game lead in the conference’s Coastal division.
“I think maybe to the outsiders coming back shows resiliency, but I think it shows the confidence this team has in what we do,” left fielder Jacob Heyward said.
Heyward, a .224 hitter so far this season, delivered the big hit that sparked a five-run fifth inning and helped UM erase an early 3-0 deficit.
Heyward belted a double over Tar Heels’ center fielder Tyler Ramirez’s reach that scored Carl Chester and Randy Batista. Chris Barr, who had reached on a walk to load the bases after Batista walked and Chester singled, tied the score on the next pitch when he scored on a wild pitch.
The Canes took the lead on a sacrifice fly by Johnny Ruiz and added another run two batters later on Willie Abreu’s two-out single to score Brandon Lopez. Chester, who reached base five times, went 3 for 4 to lead the Canes.
“I had come up a few times before that with runners in scoring position,” Heyward said. “I had to adjust my swing, make it a bit shorter and put the ball in play. You can’t do anything with strikeouts so I just wanted to put the ball in play. It was a big hit for the team. It was about getting the team runs.”
Freshmen Keven Pimentel, Andrew Cabezas and Frankie Bartow bridged the gap to junior closer Bryan Garcia, allowing only one run in four combined innings and keeping Carolina from breaking the game open.
Pimentel, a redshirt freshman, picked up the final out in the fourth when Logan Warmoth grounded out to short with bases loaded and a 3-0 lead.
Cabezas went 2 1/3 innings and gave up only two hits and struck out four. Bartow gave up a run in the eighth and ailed UM out of a jam in the seventh when Carolina put runners at the corners with one out.
Garcia recorded his ACC-leading ninth save in 10 chances, and moved into a tie with Robbie Morrison for third on the school’s all-time list for saves with 34.