Miami, FL – Brian Van Belle tossed a gem Friday night, achieving a new career-high of 14 strikeouts as the Miami Hurricanes squeaked by the Towson Tigers 2-1 to win the opener of this weekend series. Back-t0-back clutch hits from Luis Tuero and Jordan Lala were the difference makers in an otherwise lethargic performance at the plate by the team.
Van Belle was a strikeout machine, surpassing his previous mark of 10 K’s set back in the season opener against Rutgers. He threw a total of 105 pitches, 74 of them for strikes in his best start of the young season. The Hurricanes needed nothing less due to their lack of run production at the plate, only able to score in the fifth and collecting just five hits all evening. The Canes had a chance to grab an early lead after Lala kicked off the first with a single to right, however, he was left stranded at third when Raymond Gil whiffed at the plate.
Still tossin' ⛽️!@BrianVanBelle just picked up his 14th strikeout, a career high!
— Canes Baseball (@CanesBaseball) February 29, 2020
Again they threatened in the second but were also turned away. JP Gates reached first on a fielder’s choice before stealing second and eventually advancing to third for the hot-hitting Tony Jenkins. The centerfielder ended up grounding out on a 3-0 count to end the inning.
For A kid heading into his third start of the season sitting on an 8.31 ERA, Josh Seils really found his stride. The righty held the potent Miami offense to just two hits through almost five frames. Prior to tonight’s game, Seils surrendered nine runs (Eight of them earned) on 13 hits in just over eight innings. Opposing hitters were hitting .317 making it seem like the junior was in for another barrage from a team itching to get back on track after their struggles with Florida. It’s why the games are played, after all.
Gil nearly hit the go-ahead home run in the fourth but came up short, settling for a double instead after right fielder Ryan Terrents dropped the ball at the wall. He’d never make it across the plate as Gates grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The Canes broke the deadlock in the fifth. Jenkins got a hit and then advanced to second on the throwing error. Tuero finally got the clutch hit the team was searching for, a double down the left-field line to score the first run of the game. Lala followed through with an RBI single to add another run.
Once Van Belle came out, the bullpen took over with Tyler Keysor pitching an effective eighth, striking out two out of three batters faced.
Carson Palmquist ran into trouble in the ninth, beaning Brad Powers and nearly giving up the game-tying homer to Burke Camper. With two outs and the tying run at second, Daniel Federman replaced him and sealed the deal earning the save.
Burke Camper's hard hit was a big one in the top of the ninth! pic.twitter.com/C70wfNxuOQ
— Towson Baseball (@Towson_BASE) February 29, 2020
A close win indeed.
It wasn’t pretty but UM escaped with the “W” by the skin of their teeth. Brian Van Belle muzzled the Tigers’ hitting but troubles at the plate persisted. Miami was 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position (.222) and stranded seven. They really seemed lethargic offensively until midway into the game when Tuero and Lala swung for back-to-back clutch hits. The Hurricanes did little else. Jordan Lala played better after going hitless (0-for-5) Wednesday, in fact, he was the only player to get two hits on the night. The team as a whole only collected five to start the series. Anthony Vilar meanwhile went 0-for-2 with a free pass to first after going 2-for-4 in the midweek game.
Fresh off their 7-5 walk-off win against the University of South Florida, the hope was they could carry that momentum into the weekend against Towson and even though they won to open the series, it was hardly convincing.
The closer spot might also be an open question
Carson Palmquist got the ball in the ninth after effective displays against the Gators and USF. He retired the first two hitters but beaned Brad Powers and Burke Camper came within inches of tying the game. Daniel Federman was brought in and picked up his second save of the year. Coach Gino DiMare mentioned previously if the boys didn’t produce there would be changes in the lineup and briefly, it looked like Palmquist was going to be the closer going forward. It might be Federman’s for now.
Another visible change was at second base. Luis Tuero has been getting the start over Tyler Paige and so far it’s been working with Friday night’s performance complemented by the three RBI effort versus South Florida.
In reality, Towson beat themselves committing three errors including the big one in the fifth allowing Tony Jenkins to race over to second, setting up the back-to-back hits. If the team is trying to turn the page after getting swept by the No. 2 Florida Gators last weekend, they haven’t convinced me. This isn’t exactly a high-quality team, Florida International is facing a stronger opponent in Pepperdine than they are and the start of that series was a lot more competitive. A win is a win but for a team like the Hurricanes, it isn’t good enough. Not against these guys.
Gus Bus Award
Brian Van Belle, 14 strikeouts, ’nuff said.
— Canes Baseball (@CanesBaseball) February 29, 2020
You’re Killing Me Smalls
Carson Palmquist almost coughed up the lead when he beaned Brad Powers allowing for the tying run to come to the plate, nearly making it a round trip.
Photo Credit | Chris Perez