Hurricanes Baseball: Shut down and shut out by URI

Maybe it was a natural let-down after thoroughly dominating the 12th ranked Florida Gators over the weekend. Perhaps it was the fact that Qdoba provided the pre-game meal, which can't possibly be good per-game chow. Or maybe URI pitcher Eric Smith is just that great.

Whatever the reason, the Rhode Island Rams blanked the Hurricanes 3-0 Tuesday, buoyed by Smith's heroic performance, which earned him a standing ovation both knowledgeable Canes' fans and visitors.

Smith lasted eight innings, striking out five, allowing just three hits. At one point, he did not allow a hit over 20 at-bats. His victory was not only the biggest of his career, but also the most important in the history of URI baseball.

Those burritos and quesadillas slowed the Canes' bats. The team flailed wildly at Smith's arsenal of a lively fastball, a perplexing slider, and a Bugs Bunny-esque change-up.

This shouldn't have happened. The Canes recorded 16 runs against the Gators on Sunday.

But a lineup featuring first names such as Zoey and Milan battered freshman starter Danny Miranda for eight hits and three runs in four innings. Rams batters were fighting at the bat rack to get a look at Miranda. 

The Rams lack power. Like a middleweight content with jabbing his way to victory, the Rams punched singles. Two of their runs came on close plays on sacrifice flies.

The opening series against Rutgers revealed little about the Hurricanes. After all, northern teams often struggle against powerhouses from the south. The impressive sweep of the Gators in Gainesville proved that the Canes are a contender for an ACC championship and perhaps a trip to the College World Series in Omaha.

But the loss tonight reveals two things. The Canes took the Rams lightly and that quality starting pitching can defeat even the most vaunted lineups.

This Canes may not be as good as they looked against Rutgers. Tuesday's loss begins a 12 game homestand against the likes of Mount St. Mary's, Duke, Saint Joseph's and Pittsburgh. The Canes will get the best from all of these teams, and should Miami take any of them lightly as they did with URI, another upset may be in order.

Michael North 

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