Duke, which borrowed from the University of Miami’s season-long script for dramatic flair, hit four home runs — two from a player whose last name is Storm — on Friday in its second game of pool play in the Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Championship at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
But No. 11 UM hit two of its own, the first by CJ Kayfus and the next by Yohandy Morales, to tie it up in the eighth inning before going ahead for good on Renzo Gonzalez’s RBI-single to defeat the Blue Devils 7-6 in the second game of tournament play.
In came All-American closer Andrew Walters for his 25th career save and 11th of the season.
It’s not about to get any easier.
The Hurricanes (39-18) will face top-ranked Wake Forest (47-9) in the ACC tournament semifinal at 1 p.m. Saturday (ACC Network). Heavy rain is expected in that area of North Carolina, so UM’s game has been moved to Boshamer Stadium (home of UNC) in Chapel Hill; and the other semifinal between Clemson and North Carolina has been moved up to 1 p.m. (from original 5 p.m.) at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Note that UM’s Saturday semifinal will now be on ACC Network Extra (ACCNX), which is the same as ESPN3. The @CanesBaseball schedule page has a link to the ACCNX game (click on ACCNX icon).
“It would be nice to get 40 wins,’’ UM coach Gino DiMare said prophetically before his team’s Friday victory. “This would be 39.’’
Said Morales (3 for 5, 4 RBI) to the ACC Network: “It felt good. Every time they scored we came out and capitalized. ...I got my hands on it. Did the job. ...Great game we played. Duke had an amazing game. We got the job done.”
With the win, UM fans can be assured that their Hurricanes will be selected as one of 16 teams to host an NCAA regional tournament when the NCAA championships begin June 2.
“We guaranteed ourselves to host a regional,’’ DiMare told the ACC Network, adding that a win against Wake Forest could get UM named one of eight national seeds for the NCAA tournament. “I told the guys, ‘You guys win tomorrow you got a chance to be a national seed. You win the [ACC] championship you’re guaranteed to be a national seed.’”
The ACC tournament final is at noon Sunday.
DiMare has said it all season and his message to the Hurricanes before they took the field Friday against Duke was the same: “This is the most important game of the year. The game you’re playing that day has got to be the most important nowadays. ...I don’t want our guys to look ahead.”
“I told them this might be the most proud I’ve been of them all season,’’ DiMare said.
The 16 host sites will be announced by the NCAA on Sunday night after the nation’s conference tournaments have concluded. At noon Monday, ESPN2 will air the selection show that announces the 64-team field for the regionals.
The top eight seeds in the NCAA regionals automatically play at home for the second-round super regionals if they win the first round.
But first, Friday: The Blue Devils jumped to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Jay Beshears’ homer to left field.
The Hurricanes, 11th in the nation now with 109 home runs, immediately answered with two of their own when Kayfus reached on an error, Edgardo Villegas singled to right and Morales singled to right, scoring Kayfus. Villegas then scored on a wild pitch and UM went up 2-1 after one.
But the Blue Devils were at it again in the fifth on a first-pitch home run by Luke Storm to tie it at 2. Storm is the young man who made it 6-4 in the eighth.
After Alex Mooney singled to left with one out, left-handed Miami sophomore Rafe Schlesinger replaced right-handed starter Ronaldo Gallo ( two runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings,with five strikeouts).
Duke’s Alex Stone homered on the first pitch of the sixth for a 3-2 Blue Devils lead, and after a two-out single, Schlesinger was replaced by fourth-year right-handed reliever Alejandro Torres. But Torres hit the first batter he faced and then allowed an RBI-single to Damon Lux for a 4-2 Duke cushion.
The Hurricanes came right back with a sixth-inning, 2-RBI single by Morales to score Long (walk) and Kayfus (single) and tie it at 4.
UM reliever Carlos Lequerica (5-1) pitched a third of an inning for the win.
James Tallon (1-1) got the loss as Duke fell to 35-21.