NJIT: GAME ONE

Mike Kaffee

Hurricanes Baseball Reporter
[email protected]

Opening day at the Light brought everything you would want from a whirlwind start through the first three innings. Total shock descending in the 4th, deepening in the 5th, only to see a resurgence in energy coming in the 7th as the Cardiac Kids getting an early start this season, struggled back from a 2-run deficit to come back victorious with a walk-off single in the 9th. 

The preview of the starting lineup was pretty much the same as appeared in the Alumni game except Dorian gets the start at 2nd base and Blake Cyr the DH. On the mound, JD decided to go on experience rather than having the best qualified to be our Friday night starter. Preseason showed that Gage was not consistent in his pitching performance giving up too many hits and runs and not being able to go the distance meaning 6-7 innings. For three innings through NJ first 9 batters, he dominated striking out 6, throwing only 36 pitches, and not allowing a runner to reach base. The second time around, their batters literally destroyed him opening with a leadoff HR, followed by a pair of singles, and capped off with the 2nd HR of the inning. Five batters came to the plate before Gage was able to record his first out. A 5-0 lead became 5-4 and one inning later Gage continued to flounder on the mound giving up two more runs and the lead before JD finally realized that enough damage had been rendered and it was time to call in the reserves. Unfortunately, JD is not going to realize what I have said all preseason, and will probably start Gage again next Friday in what should be another cupcake team, in the hope that he will be able to redeem himself. Myself, I would still keep Gage in the starting rotation but pitch him on Sunday and go with either Rafe or Herick to start on Friday night. We were lucky to come away with a win against what should have been an easy victory. As it turned out, NJ was not a cupcake team as shown in the 4th and 5th inning. If JD wants to stick with experience, his choice would be Rafe to ensure our best chance for an opening victory and Herick to seal the series on Saturday. Gage for the sweep, if he can get beyond the 5th inning.

Miami struggled early only with just 5 hits through the first six innings. It wasn’t until the 7th that the offense started waking up and in the 9th they literally exploded to seal the victory; cardiac style.

Gage was in peak performance through the first three innings not allowing a single runner to reach base. The first batter he faced only required 3 pitches having him return to the dugout to the theme of left-right-left. The same with the second batter. In the second inning, the fans were rocking to the L-R-L chant three more times to retire the side in order.  The third, only one K to start the inning and he appeared unstoppable having thrown 34 pitches. The 4th it was back to the top of the order and Gage’s whole world collapsed and probably should have been relieved because he no longer had his control or dominance on the mound. That meant going to the BP way too early but after 89 pitches and 7 runs relinquished the damage was overwhelming.

Miami’s offense struck early with three runs in the first on a single hit. Two walks and a HP loaded the bases for the first of three times this evening. Their ace pitcher who won all sorts of awards last year in his Conference, just didn’t have it tonight. BL 2 outs, Dorian Gonzalez who had an exceptional preseason provided the first hit( double) and recorded (3RBIs) to give Miami a 3-0 lead. In the second, their pitcher continued to struggle loading the bases for the second time. This time honors came from Blake Cyr with a SF to right giving Miami an early 4-0 lead. Carlos Perez opened the inning with a double down the LF line. Miami added to their total to lead off the 3rd on the first HR of the year. Lorenzo Carrier took that honor going 410 feet off the parking garage wall.

Holding a 5-0 lead, it appeared Miami was on cruise control for an easy opening game victory. Disaster struck on the first pitch to open the 4th with a lead-off HR which was the beginning of the end for Gage Ziehl. Two consecutive base hits followed, capped with the second HR of the inning bringing the score to within one (5-4) and what was a jubilant Miami Crowd of 3068 fans turned into total shock. It wasn’t until the 5th inning after 8 batters came to the plate and 3 more runs added to the score that JD finally brought the end to what started as a brilliant pitching performance. Gage ended up showing what he showed all of the preseason in not being able to find the plate and providing batting practice for his teammates. Julian Hernadez was the first to get the call from the BP and was able to plug the hole in the dam.

After Miami had put up 5 runs in the first three innings, the offense totally shut down for the next three innings only able to get two hits, (a single in the 4th and a double in the 6th). We saw this too many times last year where the bats were silent over many an inning. It wasn’t until the 7th inning, that the offense started waking up from their hibernation. Blake Cyr kick-started the offense with a lead-off HR to dead center (414) to wake up the crowd who still hadn’t gotten over the turnabout in the 4th and 5th innings giving up 7 unanswered runs and the lead. This brought us to within one. Daniel Cuvet followed with a single, force out 6-4, walk, WP and we have runners on 2nd and 3rd two outs. Jason Torres flies out to right and at a close play at home Jacoby Long slides under the throw to tie the score at 7.

The 9th, was an inning to remember opening with the defensive catch of the night by Lucas Costello in right with an over-his-head grab saving a very possible triple. A two-out single would have given the Highlanders an 8-7 lead going into the final half of the inning. Two outs, man on first, JD brings our closer Drew Dryer. Threw 2 pitches to end the inning.

Time for the Cardiac Kids. Daniel Cuvet opens the 9th with a single. Jacoby Long who had pinched run for Carrier in the 7th executes a perfect bunt between pitcher and first. Dorian comes right back doing likewise laying down a perfectly executed bunt down the 3rd baseline to load the bases, no outs. Gino would never think of one bunt, let alone 2 bunts at this junction in the game. JD has been emphasizing the bunt during batting practice and it has paid dividends tonight. This brought Jason Torres to the plate having tied the score in the 7th. Opportunity to be the hero. Instead did the unthinkable and striking out looking. One out, Carlos Perez steps to the plate. Count 1-1, swings driving the ball between short and third for the walk-off winning single and the Light explodes as the Cardiac Kids hits paydirt on their first game of the season.

The offense as mentioned struggled in the middle innings to find a hit. Had similar issues last year and if we intend to progress post-season we need to be more consistent with our hitting especially when we come against stiffer competition with quality pitching. 4 Players with multiple hits: Blake Cyr 2-4(HR,2RBIs); Daniel Cuvet 2-4; Dorian Gonzalez 2-4 (double,3RBIs);Carlos Perez 2-5(double,RBI). Additionally: Edgardo Villegas(double) and Lorenzo Carrier (HR).  We had a total of 12 hits, 7 coming in the final three innings. Overall we hit .364 compared to our pitchers holding them to batting .242. With runners in scoring position 3-11. we had only 5 Ks which is respectable. 

Pitching from our starter has to give us 6-7 innings which tonight we failed to do. This is going to be our biggest concern this year. With the BP being an unknown factor, our three starters have to produce. I felt Ziehl was the wrong choice for the Friday starter based on his preseason performance. If he doesn’t turn the page by Long Island then JD is going to have to make his move before the Florida series. The Friday win is essential. Playing catch-up on Saturday is difficult and puts added pressure on the team as a whole. Rafe is our best chance of doing just that or even Herick after seeing how he pitched in the Alum game. If Gage can’t get us to 6, it is time to make the move from Friday to Sunday before the Florida series.

Tomorrow, it is DH time showcasing our two-star pitchers: Rafe Schlesinger and Herick Hernandez. This should give us a good look as to who should be our Friday starter for now. Everyone should be available for tomorrow especially our Closer requiring 2 pitches to secure the victory. First pitch 2Pm followed with game 2 at 7PM. Come out and see what all the excitement is about at the Light.

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