CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Senior Garrett Kennedy capped a thrilling come-from-behind victory on his first career walk-off home run Friday night, as No. 13 Miami (Fla.) topped Wright State 8-7 at Mark Light Field.
The Hurricanes fell behind in the second inning and trailed until Kennedy’s first blast of the season off Raiders closer Andrew Elliott (0-1). With two outs and a 3-1 count, Kennedy — who entered in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter — crushed a high fastball over the right field fence, sending his teammates and the 2,389 in attendance into a frenzied celebration.
“It was pretty awesome. I was hoping [Elliott] would keep coming with fastballs, that was his scouting report – he was going to come with fastballs and attack people,” Kennedy said. “I was hoping I would get one up in the zone.
“He left one up and I was able to get a good swing on it.”
Miami (7-3) struggled defensively behind junior lefthander Thomas Woodrey, who was tagged for seven runs but just one earned. The Hurricanes committed four errors on the night, as the Raiders scored three runs in the second, one in the third and three more in the fourth to jump out to an early lead.
But Kennedy’s home run capped an impressive comeback effort from the hosts, who improved to 6-0 at home this season with the win.
“It was a crazy game. The first four or five innings, we played about as bad as we could play,” head coach Jim Morris said. “It wasn’t a good game by either team defensively…but our guys got down big, and we came back. That’s the big thing.”
Woodrey exited after six innings, tying a career high with five strikeouts. He threw 94 pitches on the night, and managed to lower his ERA to 1.94 despite allowing seven runs. Sophomore Cooper Hammond earned the win for Miami after tossing two scoreless innings.
“I had to keep trust in my defense, and know that with the team we have this year, we were going to put some runs up late in the game, and sure enough that’s exactly what happened,” Woodrey said. “We came back and battled.”
Junior outfielder Ryan Fucci was the catalyst for the Raiders, connecting on a solo home run in the third and a three-RBI double down the leftfield line in the fourth. He finished the night 3-for-4 with four RBI. Leadoff hitter Mark Fowler also proved himself a tough out, finishing the night 4-for-5 with two RBI.
The hosts would battle back immediately after falling behind, loading the bases off Wright State starter Robbie Sexton in the bottom of the second. A leadoff single from junior George Iskenderian was followed by back-to-back walks from junior Brandon Lopez and redshirt sophomore Edgar Michelangeli to set up the scoring chance.
Making his first start of the season, sophomore Sebastian Diaz cranked a Sexton pitch to deep left-center that looked destined for extra bases. Fowler was up to the challenge, however, coming up with an impressive diving catch to hold Diaz to a sacrifice fly. A Raiders’ error on Carl Chester’s lineout scored another run to make it 3-2.
Iskenderian reached base for the 10th consecutive game with the single.
Fucci’s solo shot off Woodrey — the lone earned run allowed by the junior on the night — moved Wright State’s lead to 4-2, but a sacrifice fly from Iskenderian inched Miami closer in the bottom of the fourth.
Wright State tacked on three runs on Fucci’s bases-clearing double in the fourth. All the runs in the inning were unearned after Miami committed two errors in the frame.
“I was trying to stay focused, stay calm and keep pitching how I usually pitch, not try to overthrow or anything, and just keep getting groundballs,” Woodrey said.
Miami’s hopes were nearly dashed when Jacob Heyward – pinch running for Lopez after a one-out single in the ninth – was thrown out at second base on an attempted steal. But Michelangeli worked a two-out walk, and set the table for Kennedy’s theatrics.
“It can’t be any more clutch than that with Kennedy, two outs to hit a home run to win it. It was a big win for us,” Morris said.