Edgar Michelangeli knew what was at stake as he stepped up to the plate in the top of the ninth inning in a back-and-forth ACC Tournament game against NC State on Thursday.
His top-seeded Miami baseball team trailed the Wolfpack 7-5 as he got in his stance, representing the game’s potential winning run.
“There was a lot of emotion,” Michelangeli recalled Monday.
As soon as Michelangeli jumped on the first pitch NC State pitcher Tommy DeJuneas offered him — a 91-mph inside fastball — the redshirt junior knew the emotions were about to reach another level.
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Michelangeli took nine slow steps along the first-base line, his bat still firmly gripped in his left hand, as his eyes followed the towering ball to left field. Once the ball cleared the fence for the go-ahead, game-winning home run, Michelangeli triumphantly flipped his bat straight into the air and rounded the bases to be met by his teammates at home plate.
“I’m honestly not ever going to try and top that. … That’s as good as it gets,” outfielder Willie Abreu said of the bat flip.
“It happened and I had fun with it,” Michelangeli added, followed by a quick smile.
It’s easy for Michelangeli to have fun nowadays. After redshirting his first season at Miami and riding the bench for the bulk of the next two years, the Hurricanes’ third baseman is taking in every moment he can during his first year as an everyday starter.
And with No. 3 national seed Miami opening NCAA Tournament action this weekend at Mark Light Field, Michelangeli is looking forward to at least one more opportunity to embrace the moment.
“It’s been a long journey,” Michelangeli said. “It’s been great. Obviously I had to adjust with starting in college baseball, but I think I’ve got the hang of it.”
Michelangeli has thrived at the bottom of the Hurricanes’ lineup as of late.
Over the last 10 games — dating back to the beginning of Miami’s regular-season series opener against Pittsburgh on May 13 — the 6-foot-1, 210-pound infielder and former standout at Florida Christian has a team-best .382 batting average to go along with eight RBIs and six runs scored. He has a hit in seven of the 10 games and multiple hits in five of those contests.
In Miami’s 10 games prior to this streak, Michelangeli had just four hits total.
Even when he’s not landing the clutch hit or defending the hot corner, Michelangeli’s presence on the team is still felt. Teammates readily notice his upbeat demeanor in the dugout and work ethic during practices.
“A lot of people think confidence comes with playing and obviously starting, but Edgar’s always had great confidence in himself,” Abreu said. “He’s been doing great ever since he got on the field.”
Miami coach Jim Morris watched as Michelangeli adjusted to the various roles he undertook during his scattered playing time early on. To see the success this season, Morris said, is a testament to the amount of time Michelangeli put in despite the limited role he had.
“He’s worked very hard,” Morris said. “I’m happy for him because he stuck with it.”
Michelangeli grew up around Miami baseball. The stepson of former Miami pitching coach Lazaro ”Lazer” Collazo, he spent a great deal of time around Mark Light Field in his youth, watching in awe each time the Hurricanes took the field.
“This was my dream school,” Michelangeli said, “and I did whatever I could to get here.”
Now, after paying his dues, he’s the one making the plays. And as Miami begins NCAA action against Stetson on Friday, Michelangeli is hoping the hard work continues to pay off.
“I think anytime you pay the price for something, you appreciate it more,” Morris said. “He’s earned what he’s got.”