In a road series against the number one team in the country, it's important to get off to a good start. And Virginia did just that Friday night in Coral Gables. The Hoos put up five runs in the top of the first, which would be just about enough to hold on for a 6-5 win against the Hurricanes.
Virginia's bats were hot to start the evening as Ernie Clement got things rolling with a one-out double. He'd score on a Pavin Smith base hit, and after a Daniel Pinero single up the middle, first year Nate Eikhoff delivered a three run home run, his first of the year to stake the Hoos to an early 4-0 lead. Justin Novak would extend the lead to 5-0 later in the first when his single scored Charlie Cody.
And as we have seen, giving Connor Jones a 5-0 lead usually spells good things. Jones held the Hurricanes' bats in check until they got on the board in the fourth thanks to a couple hits and a throwing error by the Hoos. Virginia is fortunate that Jones was able to come back to pitch the fifth after lightning delayed the game for 1:22 in the top half of the inning. Jones showed no rust retiring the Hurricanes in order in the bottom half of the frame. Miami would get to Jones again in the sixth thanks to a Jacob Hayward solo home run, another Virginia throwing error, and a Hurricanes base hit. But the five runs in the first would still be enough for Virginia to cling to a 5-4 lead.
The seventh inning got interesting when Miami's Carl Chester led got on with a single and Johnny Ruiz's double advanced Chester to third. Virginia would intentionally walk Zach Collins, who had Jones' number up to that point, loading the bases with only one out. The drama would end there though, as Jones got Brandon Lopez to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to get out of the jam. That would also be Jones' last inning. On the night he pitched seven strong, giving up four runs (one earned) on eight hits, two walks, to go along with three strike outs.
Jones would hand the ball to Tommy Doyle who came out sharp in the eighth retiring Miami in order. He'd get some help in the top half of the ninth as first year Cam Simmons delivered the insurance with a solo home run to left and a 6-4 Virginia lead.
Doyle would need that insurance as Edgar Michelangeli led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run of his own. From there a walk to Randy Batista, an intentional walk to Collins again, and a walk to Lopez would load the bases with two outs for Hayward. Doyle settled in though, and got Hayward to pop out to second base on 2-2 pitch to end the game. For the third straight week, Doyle pitched extremely well in earning the save. He pitched two innings, giving up just one earned run on one hit, three walks, and two strike outs.
The teams face off again on Saturday. First pitch is at 7 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN3. Adam Haseley is on the mound for the Hoos as they go for their second series win against an elite opponent in as many weeks.