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Hurricanes roll to win over Maine in first NCAA regional game

CORAL GABLES — The Hurricanes’ bats came alive in their first game of regional play.

Miami (41-19) jumped out to a seven-run lead in the second and never looked back, burying Maine (32-20) 9-1 in the first game of the Coral Gables regional at Mark Light Field on Friday night.

“Our talk before the game was try to get out in front early,” Miami coach Gino DiMare said. “Couldn’t script it any better.”

The Hurricanes, who entered the postseason seventh in the nation with 112 home runs, hit three more homers Friday. Left fielder Edgardo Villegas got the Hurricanes off to a quick start, driving a first-inning pitch to deep center field for a two-run home run.

Villegas’ homer was only the beginning of Miami’s offensive rampage. They added five more runs in the second inning on an RBI double by first baseman CJ Kayfus, a single by Villegas and a three-run home run by star third baseman Yohandy Morales.

Morales’ home run was the 46th of his college career, putting him in sole possession of fifth place in UM history and passing Ryan Braun in the program record books.

“The hype is real,” Maine coach Nick Derba said. “That kid’s good. … That’s probably one of the best hitters we’ve seen all year.”

Right fielder Zach Levenson hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning to put the Hurricanes up 9-1 and seal the victory.

Sophomore Gage Ziehl, making his first career NCAA Tournament start, tossed six innings and allowed just one run, which was unearned. He struck out seven batters, reaching the 100-strikeout mark for the season. The Black Bears’ only run came on a throwing error by Hurricanes catcher Carlos Perez in the fourth inning. Alejandro Rosario, Ben Chestnutt and Sebastian Perez each pitched one inning of scoreless relief to close out the game.

“J.D. (Arteaga) was calling a good game, Carlos was catching a good game, and I did my job just to go out there and set the tone,” Ziehl said.

The Hurricanes will face No. 2 seed Texas (39-20), which beat No. 3 Louisiana 4-2 in the regional’s first game, at 6 p.m. on Saturday. DiMare said sophomore Karson Ligon will start on Saturday night.

The Longhorns, who have made the College World Series 38 times, are the only team in the nation who have more College World Series appearances than Miami (which has 25).

“Obviously, two of the most storied programs,” DiMare said. “The two programs that have been to the World Series the most. … Just a first-class program that’s always been very, very successful. It should be a lot of fun. Should be great for the fans, should be great for college baseball. I know our players are looking forward to it.”

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