By: Mike Kaffee, Hurricanes Baseball Reporter
Sunday, February 28: Hokies (9) – Hurricanes (6)
In the coming days there will be many fingers pointed at the players and coaches on what went wrong in a failing effort in our opening ACC series. Not since 2012 has Miami failed to register a series win against the Hokies and if we don’t turn things around quickly , this will be the first of many. Gino following the game in the post game press interview stated:
“We’re still a team trying to find itself, trying to figure out the bullpen,” …“It was a total team effort in terms of us not getting the job done,” “We didn’t play good defense, we’re still struggling with our lineup, trying to figure it out. Bottom line is they outplayed us and they deserve to win so we’ve got to turn the page and learn from these mistakes and get ready for NC State.”
I could sum it up in three words: THEY WERE HUNGRIER . I say to Gino we better find ourselves sooner rather than later or we will be looking at postseason hopes from our living room couch. Three times, the Hokies were down and each time they had an answer. If it wasn’t for the solid pitching Saturday night this series would have been a total wash. Going into today’s game it was all about the 1st inning. we were 6-11 with the bat for the series.The reminder of the game we batted .146. If you believed in what you read preseason, this should have been a runaway series where our hitting and pitching should have dominated over the Hokies. I guess VT forgot to read these stories or believe the ranking. The Hokies came to play and not spend their time on South Beach enjoying the sun and beach. We were out coached, and out played. Every decision their coach made in the change of pitchers was right and Gino’s was totally wrong. the BP today totally failed us and our bats, unlike their’s, failed to provide the killer instinct that makes a winner. Today, it was the Hokies with the instinct to win and our BP could not stop them. Every time we scored, they had an answer with runs of their own. Too many lost opportunities and not providing the hit when they were most needed. You can’t play small ball and expect to win.The 11 hits gathered, all but one was a single.The wind in left played a significant role in today’s contest in what seemed to be routine fly outs carried over the fence. Our supposedly power hitters failed to take advantage of this and we paid the price along with nothing in the extra base category.
Gino, trying to figure out who to put in the lineup to make it click went into his grab bag in the hope in finding the right combination. No change with the initial 4 of Lala, Vilar, Yoyo (playing 3rd),, and DC. Batting 5th was Jared Thomas who would normally catch mid week would be the DH for today. The lineup for 6-8 also remain the same with CDC, Born who would switch from DH to playing CF today. Toral would stay at the 8th position and Dominic Pitelli playing short batting 9th. Victor Mederos started looking for his first victory
The first inning was the same in all 3 games. Miami scoring and the Hokies going down in order. Miami takes the early 2-0 lead on a high fly to left being taken over the fence compliments of the wind by Yoyo bringing in Anthony Vilar who singled just prior. Like game one, Tech had an answer in the 2nd cutting the lead in half on a one out single advancing one out later on a WP which would cost a run with a single to left. The Hokies would wait one more inning before tying the game with a lead off HR, where else, over the wind directed LF fence.
The 4th Miami has a missed opportunity with Thomas leading off with a walk followed by CDC singling putting runners on the corners . CDC is caught stealing second leaving Thomas still on 3rd. Born strikes out. With 1B open they take the bat out of Toral’s hands with an intentional walk going with the weaker bat in the way of Dominic Pitelli. Smart move having Pitelli striking out leaving Thomas stranded on 3rd.
The score would remain tied at 2 until the 5th when the Canes take advantage of a 2 out error by their SS which leads to BL on a following single and walk . With BL , CDC picks up his 7th and 8th RBI of the season with a single to center. Born fly out to right ends the inning with runners on the corners
Hokies answer in the top of the 6 with 2 of their own and relieving Mederos with runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs. Mederos had 81 pitches at the time and the question was this the right decision. Hard to second guess having given up a pair of single to get in this position . The choice of pitchers is questionable and the lack of ability to put out the fire from anyone coming out of the BP. The first lamb to the slaughter was Anthony Arguelles who had a good outing last week against Florida not allowing a single hit for the inning pitched. That was last week and this was a totally different pitching performance walking his first batter to load the bases. Going once again to a full count, serves up an a 2 RBI single to tie the score at 4. Reload the bases for the second time withe hit by pitch before retiring the side with a strikeout.
the bottom half of the 6th with the score tied, Miami takes advantage of 2 miscommunicated calls resulting in two runs but failed opportunity wise to really take advantage of their mistakes. Toral opened with a single and was replaced for defensives reasons with CJ Kayfus. The question here was this the right decision at this point in the game being just the 6th inning. The idea Gino was thinking was the lack of speed by Toral and CJ offers a better opportunity for the SAC to follow. Pitelli lays down a pop bunt in front of the 1B and in the confusement between first, catcher, and pitcher of who is doing what , Dominic slides safely into first. This brings the top of the order and Jordan Lala who let the world know that he was going to bunt. There was no hiding it and he showed his intentions before the delivery. With first and third charging in he lays it perfectly on his second attempt back to the pitcher advancing CJ and Dominic one base. Second miscommunication follows with a Vilar bloop to shallow right center and RF and CF could not decide on who was going to take it. Neither did, dropping in between them for an RBI single. Runners on the corners, Yoyo gets his 2nd hit of the day and 3rd RBI with a single to right. WP would advance runners to 2nd and 3rd. bringing to bat DC with one out. Major opportunity lost with both DC and Thomas striking out. Still Miami retakes the lead at 6-4.
Holding a 2 run lead, Gino goes once again to the BP and brings in JP Gates. This was the inning that broke the camel’s back. 2 straight walks brings Gino back to the mound and what everyone would have thought that bringing in the big gun would halt this early rally. Ben Wanger who had a great Saturday throwing nothing but strikes, could not show a repeat performance having the first batter faced single to load the bases followed by a second single to tie the score at 6. He managed the first out with the ball being hit back to him and getting the force out at 3rd. WP advanced the runners one base. Goes with the intentional walk to load the bases before Gino goes once more to the well to attempt to stop the bleeding. This time he brings in Jordon Dubberly who gets the out 4-3 but unable to get the DP bringing in the go ahead run from 3rd and giving them the lead for the first time today.
The bats for Miami were unable to answer not being able to record another run with only being able to put a a single in the 9th to be followed with a DP. While Miami fizzled in the final innings, . Tech puts up insurance runs in the 8th with a 2 run homer just staying in the RF line . That would be all runs needed in VT taking the series 9-6
Offensively, like the whole series, Miami failed to execute. What the lineup might show as power throughout has been nothing but empty air. Batting 239, of the 51 hits to date, only 8 for extra bases. Of these only 2 have been HRs. All this power we have been expecting has remained in the dugout. That 10 million or so for the Performance Center has not exactly paid what it is supposed to provide. At least it has not yet. Did have 4 players hit with multiple numbers, but obviously at the wrong time when it really counted. Anthony Vilar a 2-5 day with an RBI. Yoyo also with 2 hits and 3 RBIs. He seems to be one of the few making good use of the Performance Center. He was rewarded with his first HR of his career in the first.Also with a pair of hits was DC 2-5, but striking out in the 6th when it was most needed for a hit having runners on 2nd and 3rd one out and we had a chance to really open the game taking advantage of their miscues. Big Brother also contributed going 3-4 collecting a pair of RBIs. Yoyo is leading the team in batting at 370 followed by CDC with .333. Little brother is close behind at .320. The rest of the team is struggling with Gil, Thomas, and Jenkins below the Mendoza line. Gabe and Frank right at the Line (200) and Lala slightly above .208.
Defensively we are getting better but this is a work in progress. Had 2 errors today after going without in the first 2 games but they did not cost us a run.
Pitching, the BP is a crapshoot not knowing what you are going to get. What you thought was solid seemed to have melting issues. Right now, only our closer Carson Palmquist and and Alejandro Rosario seem to be the only glimmer of light. Wanger has some patching up to do to become part of the 1,2 knockout punch expected. As for our Friday night starter, Daniel Federman is definitely you don’t want to see come next Friday against NCS. He has not changed from last year on not knowing which Daniel is walking out to the mound. Too inconsistent. Rosario would be my choice for Friday and moving Jake Garland somewhere in the weekend rotation. The question I am still asking and no one has the answer is where is Alex McFarlane who was really impressive last year. Come Monday, I expect to see Rosario’s name as ACC pitcher of the week. I am sure this would have more meaning if we had taken the series this weekend.
Gino has 4 days to work on these problems which appears to be an insurmountable mountain to climb. Better decision making seems to be the order of the day. However, when you don’t have hitters that hit or pitchers who can’t shut it down , what does he do. NCS wii be looking to rebound losing all three to GT this weekend. They, like Miami, is suppose to be power with the bats but Gino has his work cut out for him to make sure they keep on their losing way and we bounce back.
Saturday, February 27: Hurricanes (3) – Hokies (0)
The story line for tonight was PITCHING.. To sum it up: it was BRILLIANT if not SPECTACULAR. Freshman pitcher Alejandro Rosario went to school tonight on the mound and dosed out an education to a clueless Hokie team earning him a degree in wizardry. For 6 solid innings, the Hokies only managed to garner a lone hit coming in the second inning as player after player went down in order not being able to make contact with Rosario’s fast ball travelling at a consistent 97 MPH peeking out at 98 MPH. Gave up one walk in the 4 while taking down 7 by strikeouts. In the 7th, he ran into a bit of trouble with VT actually having a man reach second for the first time in the game coming off a two out single, second in the inning, which could have gone down as as E4 to end the inning but that was the total damage sustained as Rosario got to final out with a line drive to right to end his evening having thrown only 88 pitches through 7. Rosario handed over the rock for the set-up pitcher Ben Wanger and closer Carson Palmquest to complete the shutout. The 4 batters Ben faced , he didn’t throw a single ball for all of 11 pitches thrown. There was nothing but strikes in his repertoire. Carson continued to stymie the helpless Tech batters with only 6 pitches locking in the shutout victory with kodak ending DP execution by Anthony Vilar going to his right for the out and then making an off balance throw to first to double up the runner.The pitching staff was at its best tonight earning a 3-0 shutout.
Coming off a lack luster offensive performance last night, Gino went to the well with a bit of a shakeup to the lineup in the hope of waking up a sleeping giant, who has yet to find its way with the offensive punch we are all waiting for to come charging out of the gate. With the team batting an overall .224 coming into tonight’s game there has yet to be a spark found to light the fuse. Of the 33 hits through 4 games only 7 have been for extra bases. For a team that was known for its HR capability last year, we have only seen one to date. That being said Gino did some hocus pocus. No change in the top half of the order with Lala leading off, followed by Vilar, Yoyo and DC. Batting 5th replacing Gil at 3rd was transfer student Adam Frank making his debut as a Cane. The interesting fact about Adam is when he is playing the infield he throws right and when playing in the OF throws left. Batting 6th is CDC with another new face making his way into the lineup batting 7th as the DH: Chad Born. Batting 8th and who has been struggling with the bat is Alex Toral who coming into tonight’s contest batting right at the Mendoza line (.200). Jenkins in the 9th position batting at .176. The other player currently below the Mendoza line is Anthony Vilar with .167. For a team with high preseason expectations has not been all that encouraging this early into the season. Alejandro Rosario on the mound looking for his first victory as a Cane.
If you tuned into the game past the first inning you missed all the runs scored in the game. Rosario didn’t waste much time on the mound to start off the game needing 14 pitches to take the Hokies down in order. Like last night, the Canes ran out of steam after the first inning collecting all their runs and 4 of their 7 hits for the game. Lala continued his 13 consecutive games (carried over from last year) for reaching base with a leadoff single. WP advanced him to second and Yoyo brought in the first of three runs with an RBI single. This was followed with consecutive singles by DC and Frank who picks up not only his first hit as a Cane but also 2 RBIs to go along with it. Unlike yesterday where Miami opened with 2 runs, Va Tech could not answer in the second or for any other of the remaining innings. The same can be said for the Canes. The offense shut down with only three hits for the reminder of the game. All singles( 3rd, 5 and 8th).
It will definitely be back to the batting cages this coming week in their dynamic new facility which just haven’t done a thing to justify the technology. All hits came from the the first five in the batting order with Yoyo going 2-3 and DC likewise with 2 hits with one more officially at bat (2-4). The bats just can’t provide nothing more than singles and whatever they say, I say: small ball doesn’t win ball games. If it was not for our pitching tonight, the results might have been a whole lot different. I am sure Gino will once again go to the crystal ball to try to find the that the secret ingredient in putting magic back into the bats.
Defensively, for the second night in a row: NO ERRORS.They played sound ball both in the field and offensively on the base pads.
Friday, February 26: Hokies (5) – Hurricanes (3)
11 game winning streak against the Hokies and our #1 ranking by collegiate baseball going into tonight’s opener is NO more. Miami performance at the plate and running the bases was a disappointment for the 623 fans that came out to see the team that captured the series from the #1 Gators. What they saw instead was a team who could only manage to collect 6 hits, who were not able to put up a run after the 3rd inning and striking out 11 times along the way. A different Daniel Federman from last week was iffy tonight at best. 4 of the 6 innings he pitched he looked very good taking out the batters in order, but in the second and third inning he lost total control giving up 5 runs (3,2) on 6 hits. That would be all the Hokies needed in that for the remainder of the game they were held hitless and scoreless. With the exception of the 9th inning (4 batters) the Hokies went down in order. Jake Garland came in relief in the 7th and did not give up a hit or run in the losing effort. Tonight, there would be no 9th inning comeback.
Tonight’s lineup was unchanged from Sunday’s game with the Gators were we put up 8 runs on 10 hits. Gino looking for the same production, failed to get the bats swinging and producing runs. Daniel Federman started on the mound looking for his first victory of the season. Last year you were never quite certain which Daniel would take to the mound and tonight you saw both sides where: when he was on, he was on and when he was off he was way off. For the Friday night pitcher you need consistency and right now I don’t see that in Daniel. He serves up too many bad pitchers and tonight his velocity scarcely got above 90.
The game started like everyone was counting on, getting on the board quickly with a pair of runs. Lala led it off getting on the hard way by getting hit in the head. The Hokies starter looked a bit shaky with the first 4 batters reaching base safely. It could have been a bigger inning except for the bad base running that continues to hamper the team. Lala was fortunate not getting picked off at first and only made it to second when the 1B throw to 2nd was way off the mark. Vilar’s walk set up the first run with a single to center by Yoyo (Morales) scoring Lala.I thought it was a generous call in that the CF dropped the ball. DC with runners on 1st and 2nd singles to left for the second score but in the process gets thrown out at second when he tries to stretch the single into a double. This was just another instance of bad base running.
The 2-0 lead quickly was put behind us when the Hokies came back with 3 in the second. A lead off double set the wheels in motion which Miami never recovered from. After striking out the next batter, a WP moves the runner to 3rd, setting up their first score with an RBI single to left.The runner at first steals 2nd and 3rd and comes home on a homer to left putting the Hokies lead at 3-2 at the end of two. Daniel would take 30 pitches before he returned to the dugout
Things did not get much better in the third with a one out triple getting by CDC in right after attempting a diving catch, followed up with a two run homer in left center just out of reach of Tony Jenkins who we in the stands had to wait on whether he caught the ball or not. After 2 1/2 innings Miami fans are shocked trailing 5-2. That would be the end to their scoring and in fact their hitting for the remainder of the game. From the 4th inning on it would be 3up/3down except for the 9th with an opening walk.
Miami also ended their scoring in the 3rd coming back with one of their own but once again missed out on more runs through bad base running. Miami failed to take advantage of two errors Tech committed and BL with no one out. What does this say about the supposedly #1 team. Unfortunately not much. Lala got the inning started with a beautifully executed bunt single down the 3rd base line and advanced to 2nd on a throwing error by the third baseman. Vilar walked bringing Yoyo to the plate with men on 1st and 2nd. He hits into a perfect DP to 2nd only to have the second baseman mishandle the ball to load the bases. This sets it up for DC who continues to not show last year’s bat by striking out looking. This brings Alex to the plate and everyone is thinking grand slam. Instead opposite field SF to left and Lala crosses the plate before Vilar get thrown out trying to make it to third. Another example of bad base running.
That is all the highlights for game one. After the third inning, neither team could do no right. Virginia Tech would go down in order thereafter and Miami would have a runner (Jenkins ) picked off first in the 4th, and striking out 6 times in the 5th -7th inning with a DP in the 6th by Gil.Between the 4th and 9th Miami only manage to provide 3 singles in a losing effort.
Offensively, it was one you want to put behind you and move forward. Six hits total and not one for extra bases. Anthony Vilar was the only one with multiple hits going 2-2. The bats struggles with their lack of offense. Also the 11 strikeout did not help their cause. Defensively, a much better game with no errors or mental miscues. Pitching, Kudos goes out to Jake Garland who did an excellent job for the 3 innings he pitched only facing 10 batters without giving up a hit and striking out 5. Daniel threw for 92 pitches and completed 6 innings.The 2nd and 3rd inning he really struggled showing signs of his inconsistency of last year. Doubtful if Gino would be looking elsewhere for Friday night but he better not wait long. An 0-2 start makes it difficult playing catch up if you intend to take a series.