The No. 16 Miami Hurricanes entered this season with big expectations as they returned their entire pitching staff from a season ago and added much needed power to a revamped lineup that many believed could propel Miami deep into postseason play.
Over the course of opening weekend Miami’s offense showed promise of that potential at times but also showed inconsistencies at the plate that were evident in its 2-1 series victory over Maine.
Miami took the season opener 6-3 behind a four-run first inning to win its seventh straight game on opening day. Those four runs however came on four straight bases loaded walks by Maine starting pitcher Tommy Lawrence.
The majority of Miami’s offense came from outfielder Tyler Palmer, who went 3-for-4 on opening night. The senior showed off some of his power in the second inning with a home run that gave Miami a 5-0 lead and added another RBI in the eighth inning with a single that gave Miami a 6-3 lead.
“It was a good game overall by us,’’ Palmer said. “I’ve been hitting the ball well. I just took advantage of some of the counts I had. He had a 1-1 count when I hit the home run. He missed with the slider and came back with a fastball and I just got a good pitch to hit.”
Miami was out hit in the game 11 to 7 though, as the rest of the lineup managed just four hits in addition to Palmer’s three. Five of Miami’s hits were also singles, not exactly illustrative of the power many expected this season but head coach Jim Morris was still pleased with the win nonetheless.
“Opening night’s a big win for us,” Morris said. “We played five freshmen and got some guys in there that had an opportunity to get their feet wet,” Miami coach Jim Morris said. “We’ve been swinging the bat good. I wasn’t particularly impressed tonight with the way we swung the bat, but we have been swinging the bat good and we’re bigger, stronger and better hitters than we were last year.”
Starting pitcher Chris Diaz pitched five innings to pick up the win, allowing just one earned run on six hits and three walks while striking out seven. Miami’s bullpen combination of Cooper Hammond, Danny Garcia, Thomas Woodley, and AJ Salcines struggled a bit, combining to give up five hits and two runs in the final four innings before Salcines picked up the save.
Miami’s offense struggled even more Saturday night, managing just two hits in a 3-1 loss.
The Hurricanes wasted a fantastic outing by starting pitcher Bryan Radziewski, who struck out ten batters and gave up zero unearned runs. The defense didn’t do the junior any favors either, committing five errors on the night. Radziewski committed two errors himself in the third inning and third baseman David Thompson committed a third that allowed Maine to score two unearned runs.
Radziewski blamed himself afterwards after he hit Jonathan Salcedo with a pitch to lead off the inning.
“I pretty much look at third inning,” Radziewski said. “You get a guy down 0-2, and you hit him, nothing good can come from that. They ended up scoring two runs, and that’s what hurt us.”
The offense couldn’t overcome the errors as Maine starter Scott Heath dominated Miami’s lineup, retiring nine straight at one point while striking out eight batters to pick up the win.
But Miami’s offense responded in a big way Sunday afternoon, registering 12 hits to defeat Maine 11-2 in the rubber match at Alex Rodriguez Park. The Hurricanes scored eight runs over the first three innings to cruise to an easy victory over the Black Bears, an offensive display many expected in the first two games of the series.
Southpaw starter Andrew Suarez was also fantastic on the mound, striking out a career-high ten batters while surrendering just two runs on four hits with zero walks in five innings of work.
“I felt like they weren’t catching up to my fastball,” Suarez said. “I threw a lot of fastballs, and mixed in some sliders because they have a lot of lefties. I worked on keeping the ball low and trusting my defense.”
The Hurricanes took a 2-0 in the first inning thanks to three errors by the Black Bears. After picking up another run in the second, Miami blew the doors open in the third with five hits for five runs to take an 8-1 lead.
“That’s the way I expected this team to play,” Morris said. “They practice as hard as any team I’ve had at Miami, and we were as well-prepared coming into the season as anybody since I've been in Miami.”
Thompson, one night removed from going 0-4 with two strikeouts, bounced back with two doubles for his first two hits of the season for a 2-for-3 day while senior outfielder Dale Carey also went 2-for-3 and finished the series 5-for-11. Freshmen Willie Abreu, Edgar Michelangeli, Laz Rivera, and Brad Zunica all picked up their first hits of their careers as well.
“The way we came out and played today was really important for everyone’s confidence,” Morris said. “I think that we’re capable of playing that way every day. We have a lot of competition within the team, as you can see, to get in the lineup and all those things are going to make us better.
Miami will host FAU Wednesday night before taking on No. 23 Florida in a three game series beginning Friday night at Alex Rodriguez Park.