By: Mike Kaffee, Hurricanes Baseball Reporter
The rains held off until the 3rd inning. After the 45 minute delay for lightning, Miami, after a very sluggish start of having 4 strikeout through the first 2 innings, used the interruption of play to come back with a strong third to put two runs on the board. Alex McFarlane in his first Friday start held the Mountaineers to just two hits but like all our starters this season, they just can’t get past the 5th inning. For the 4.2 inning he was on the mound, while he managed to strike out tying a season high of 5 but at the same time walked as many. Tiring in the 5th with 87 pitches already to his credit, Gino finally went to the BP after Alex gave up a two out RBI single to cut the lead to one. Alejandro Rosario came in relief and unlike his prior outing which lost him his Friday start showed us the earlier version of himself where he dominated on the mound. Miami managed to add to their lead in the 6th with a squeeze by Big Brother. The bunt would once again play an integral part in setting up the Canes 4th run in the 8th to give Carson a 3 run cushion going into the 9th. Normally an automatic, things got a little tense, when the Mountaineers staged an unexpected last out effort in getting back in the ballgame with the tying run coming to the plate.
Uncertainty, is the best to describe where this team is at offensively as well as pitching rotation. In the last 12 series 8 has had a different rotation. The starters can’t get beyond the 5th, and for the most part our hitters appeared to be lost at the plate. Tonight was no exception only managing just 5 hits and Alex not being able to complete the 5th. Fortunately the hitting was timely and if you can’t hit, then bunt. This would be key in tonight’s game plan. The BP once again gets the call to bail out a floundering offense and hold on to the contested battle of the pitching duel. Our pitching rotation kept their hitters in gridlock only batting an overall .182 but we weren’t any better with an overall .185. This is an offense still trying to find ways to get on base, but more importantly getting runners home. Between the pitching and key offensive hits we squeak out a victory.
The lineup was a bit of a surprise seeing Lala out of the lineup for the second time in his career and even a bigger surprise seeing Tony Jenkins leading off who has not seen a start since March. Batting just barely over .100(.105) his on base percentage is just .232. Lead off is the person most likely to get on base and Vilar would have been a much better choice at .407. As it turned out Tony would reach base 3 of the 4 times at bat, get 2 of our 5 hits and was key is setting up the insurance run in the 8th. Rest of the lineup remained the same. CDC would move over to play left replacing Lala and Tony in center
With the rains stopping about an hour before start, batting practice I was told was put on back burner. Definitely showed in the early innings before the lightning stoppage in the 3rd with the Canes going down in order striking out 4 of the first 6 batters. When play resumed in the 3rd after a 45 minute delay, Alex returned to the mound with one out and a 3-2 count on the batter. One pitch gave up his second walk of the game. Would need 19 pitches to complete the inning driving his total to 47. Last week he threw 55 pitches through 5 without giving up a walk. Tonight he would walk 5. Still only 1 hit allowed through 3.
The third, Miami catches a break with a fluke fly to right by Gabe. Misplayed by the RF, generated by the wind, falls in for a double setting up the initial score. As earlier stated if the team isn’t hitting, go bunt. Dominic Pitelli catches the 3B off guard executing the perfect bunt for a hit putting runner on the corners. Back to the top of the order and Tony walks to load the bases no outs. A double to right by Vilar with the count full brings in 2 runs. With runners on 2nd and 3rd one out, the bats once again fizzled out leaving Anthony and Tony stranded on base.
The 5th, the Mountaineers get back in the game with a two out single, which would end the night for Alex and brings in Rosario to get the final out without further damage. Alejandro would stay in to complete the 7th only giving up a single and showing a resurgence of earlier performances before his oblique injury earlier in the season
After App State got within one in the 5th, we didn’t answer until an inning later to regain the 2 run margin. Yoyo would lead off being hit. A WP would send him to second and the throw to second was wide (E2), sending Yoyo to 3rd, no outs.DC would strike out but Big Brother caught the 3B totally by surprise in executing the perfect squeeze to give a 3-1 lead.
Again, it was the bunt which play an integral role in providing an insurance run in the 8th. Tony leading off the 8th would bunt his way onto first doing exacting what CDC did 2 innings prior. Once on base, Tony steals 2nd. Anthony walks placing runners on 1st and 2nd. Yoyo’s FO to right enables Tony to advance to 3rd setting up a DC ground out 4-3 to give the Canes a 3 run margin going into the 9th.
Carson having struck out the sides in the 8th, started out striking out the 1st two in the 9th and it looks like he was about to earn his 11th save; most in the ACC. A 2-2 count puts a base runner on first with a single to right center. One strike away from his save (0-2),a double off the right field wall, inches away from a HR which would have brought them within one, instead the tying run rather than the go ahead run come to the plate. Not to be shaken, Carson needs just 4 pitches to record his 6th strikeout and earned him the big 11.
Offensively, only difference from other games, were timely hits and executing the bunt which they really have not used much this year. They continue to struggle in trying to put hits together. Tonight they didn’t waste the very few opportunities when it presented itself. Still only batting .188 is not something to be proud of. Fortunately our pitching kept App State in lockdown mode. Once again it was the pitching bailed the team out with a win. At this point in the season we should have more than one person batting over .300. This is very sad when you look at our roster which on paper should be setting all sort of numbers but instead are just getting by. Against ACC opponents they aren’t losing their last 3 of 4 series. One person in multiple numbers. this from Tony Jenkins who came into the game batting .109. Left batting .173 after going 2-3.
Pitching the same old story. Not being able to get beyond the 5th. Tonight 4.2 at 87 pitches. Not that McFarlane pitched a bad game but he just needed a lot of pitches to do so. Held them to just 2 hits but the 5 walks gave him control issues. Still pitched well enough to give up only a run at the very end. The BP only needed Rosario to hold on, which he did extremely well, only allowing a single hit before turning the rock over to Carson in the 8th. What more can you say about Carson. To date, it has been a guarantee when he is on the mound for the W.
Tomorrow, It is Jake Smith for the series. Hopefully he gets better support coming from the bats and not make it another pitcher’s battle. Sooner or later our offense has to come ready to play ball or we will be looking from the sidelines come postseason.