After a turbulent arrival to Miami on Thursday with the Virginia baseball team’s bus from the airport to the hotel involved in a collision, the visiting Cavaliers probably just wanted to do exactly what they came to Coral Gables to do – play baseball.
A five-run top of the first showed how much energy they started out with once they finally got to do that on Friday night against No. 1 University of Miami, and it propelled them to defeat the Hurricanes 6-5 in the first of a three-game series at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.
The defending national champion Cavaliers (25-16, 10-9 ACC) held on through an hour-and-22-minute weather delay — a setback which couldn’t have come close to rivaling what they went through on Thursday — and near UM comeback.
The Canes (29-7, 13-4) suffered their third loss in the last four games after having won 12 in a row.
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“It’s a long season and anytime you lose it’s a concern,” Miami coach Jim Morris said. “The fact is that we just have to continue to play the game and get some big hits.”
Edgar Michelangeli homered to lead off the ninth to pull UM within one, but the Canes could not get another run across to force extra innings.
Virginia opted to intentionally walk star catcher Zack Collins with two outs and the tying run on second and it proved to work to their favor like it did his previous time up. After another walk to Brandon Lopez, Jacob Heyward popped out to second base to end it.
“We just needed one more big hit at the end, and we could’ve won the game and it would’ve been a huge win for us,” Morris said. “If we get one big hit today, we’re up here laughing.
“So we’ve got to get a win [Saturday], and if we get a win on [Saturday], get a win on Sunday.”
The insurance run the Cavaliers received via a home run from freshman pinch-hitter Cameron Simmons in the top of the ninth proved critical.
All five of Virginia’s first-inning runs came with two outs. The Cavaliers strung together six consecutive hits as UM starter Thomas Woodrey was off to a rocky start. Designated hitter Nate Eikhoff blasted a three-run home run to right, and Pavin Smith and Justin Novak had RBI singles.
“That’s a team that comes out hungry every time. We’re a good team, they’re a good team, and it’s a big ACC weekend,” Woodrey said. “They came out how we expected them to come out, which is playing hard.”
Woodrey settled in after that, retiring eight in a row the second time through the lineup. He didn’t go past the delay, however, and ended up getting hit with the loss with the five runs against him on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Offense was tough to come by early against UVA starter Connor Jones, a junior right-hander who is projected in mock drafts to go in the middle of the first round, but the Canes were able to manufacture a pair of runs in the fourth when Willie Abreu drove in a run on a groundout to third and Christopher Barr, who returned from missing three games with a hamstring injury, singled home another.
Jones did last past the rain delay for Virginia, and finished up going seven innings, giving up four runs – one earned – on eight hits for the win.
After the delay, Miami was able to tag him for another pair of runs in the sixth when Heyward hit a solo homer to left and another Barr single brought home Abreu, who had reached on an error.
“We battled back every inning, just tried to scratch one run across, two runs across and we fought back,” Barr said. “We knew [Jones] was going to be throwing good against us. We were just trying to have a good approach, swing at strikes.”
The Hurricanes had a big opportunity pass them by in the seventh when Brandon Lopez grounded into a double play in a one-out, bases loaded situation in the seventh while trailing by a run. Virginia had walked Collins with first base open to pitch to Lopez.
The weekend series continues on Saturday night as UM left-hander Michael Mediavilla (6-1, 4.02 ERA) takes on Adam Haseley (6-1, 1.60 ERA), a lefty and leadoff man who plays center field when not pitching.