Jacksonville Sports Day

UM BASEBALL: Toral’s Grand Slam Blasts Canes Past Noles, 11-0

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – One swing of the bat by ACC home run leader Alex Toral made all the difference for the Miami Hurricanes in Friday’s 11-0 win over rival Florida State.

On a night when Miami honored Florida State head coach Mike Martin for a 40-year career leading the Seminoles, the Hurricanes’ offensive output matched Martin’s jersey number to help secure a series opening victory over their in-state and conference rival.

“Winning the first game certainly helps,’’ head coach Gino DiMare said. “I told the guys we hadn’t really played a complete game this year. … I didn’t realize, but six runs we scored with two outs in the seventh inning. And of course we played very good defense. Great complete game. I’m very happy.”

Toral sent the 3,227 fans into a frenzy inside Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field on Friday night, as the sophomore crushed a grand slam deep to center field to push the hometown Hurricanes (19-11, 6-7 ACC) past the rival Seminoles (18-11, 6-7 ACC).

Miami ace Evan McKendry kept Florida State’s bats in check in the series opener, allowing just three hits and striking out nine over seven scoreless innings to earn his fifth win of the year. The junior right-hander struck out the side in the fifth, running his tally to six strikeouts over five frames, and Miami’s bats came alive in the bottom of the inning as they sent 10 men to bat against three different Seminole pitchers.

“It was awesome,” McKendry said. “Gino has been preaching that we are just waiting for the game that everything clicks for us and today that was it. We pitched well, we hit well, played good defense, no errors, that’s exactly what we need to do.”

Adrian Del Castillo and Raymond Gil opened the bottom of the fifth with back-to-back singles and advanced to second and third after a hard groundout to first from JP Gates.

Florida State head coach Mike Martin elected to intentionally walk Michael Amditis to load the bases with one out and set up and lefty-lefty matchup between FSU starter Drew Parrish and Miami first baseman Alex Toral.

The sophomore slugger crushed an 0-2 pitch for a grand slam off the batter’s eye beyond the center field fence to give Miami a 4-0 lead. The grand slam was the first by a Hurricane since Freddy Zamora’s bases-loaded homer against UMBC on March 3, 2019.

“I feel like we kind of got the momentum going in that inning,” Toral said. “It started with Evan. I’m pretty sure he struck out the side the inning before that and as a player I felt like we need to score right here. Evan just had a shutdown inning, it doesn’t get better than three strike outs in an inning and coming up with the bases loaded, obviously my emotions were high and I’m glad I came through for my team.”

The blast was Toral’s ACC-leading 13th home run of the year and appeared to rattle Parrish, as he hit Gabe Rivera on the first pitch of the at-bat and then walked Jordan Lala before being lifted in favor of lefty reliever Austin Pollock. Eight pitches later, Anthony Vilar was headed to first with a walk and Martin was coming back out of the dugout to swap pitchers again.

“Everyone knows this is a huge rivalry game and obviously to put my team on top first to start the series off like that just feels great,” Toral said.

Right-hander Chase Haney took the mound in place of Pollock in the second bases-loaded situation of the bottom of the fifth and got out of the jam, striking out Zamora and getting some help from left fielder Elijah Cabell’s diving grab that robbed Del Castillo of a second hit in the fifth and ended the Miami rally.

The Hurricanes had a six-run rally with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, as Zamora singled home Toral and Lala with a base hit up the middle off reliever Tyler Ahearn. After Del Castillo walked, Gil’s RBI single to left sent Zamora home and knocked Ahearn out of the game with Miami leading, 7-0.

“It kind of sets the tone for the weekend so hopefully we can stick with that approach throughout the lineup and keep capitalizing on moments like that,” Toral

Reliever Gage Hutchinson did not fare much better, as Gates smashed a two-run double over JC Flowers’ head in center that sent home Del Castillo and Gil to give the Hurricanes a 9-0 advantage. Pinch hitter Isaac Quiñones hit a ground ball down the third base line, but the throw by FSU’s Drew Mendoza pulled Nico Baldor off the bag at first to give Miami double-digit runs.

Miami added its final run in the eighth, as Zamora’s RBI groundout to third sent home Tony Jenkins to make it 11-0. Freshman lefty Bailey Mantilla made his Hurricane debut and recorded a pair of strikeouts over two scoreless innings of relief to complete the win for the Canes.

“It’s our biggest crowds of the year, so it’s a great atmosphere and our players were excited to know the fans were going to come out today,” DiMare said. “Certainly to have arguably our best game, our most complete game as a team in front of all the fans was great, so hopefully they saw good baseball and they will come out tomorrow. Usually Saturday games are even bigger and, of course, we are honoring our ‘99 championship team, so hopefully, a lot of fans will come out and support that and we have to concentrate on taking care of the series, which we have had trouble doing. We won game one of the series but we need to finish it off, so we need to be ready to go tomorrow. “

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