When Florida State came into town last weekend to Mark Light Stadium, the Miami Hurricanes knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task. The situation wasn’t new for Miami as they cleaned up with No. 2 Georgia Tech earlier in the season despite their highly touted pitching staff.
The difference this weekend was that FSU played like a team ranked second in the nation.
The Seminoles took care of business, winning two games and tying one in Coral Gables. FSU took Friday’s game 4-2, won Saturday 6-4, and scratched out the 7-7 tie due to an FSU flight curfew on Sunday despite trailing in both the eighth and ninth innings of the game.
“The Seminoles played well enough to win,” head coach Jim Morris said. “We made some mistakes and didn’t get the job done.”
The ‘Noles scored just four more runs than Miami over the course of the weekend, but when it was clutch time, FSU buckled down. Against one of the best pitching staff’s and defensive squads in the nation, Miami’s bats were hard pressed to put hits up on the board.
Despite UM’s inability to come through in the end, Florida State head Coach Mike Martin was fully impressed with the ‘Canes effort.
“Boy that’s a great looking baseball club,” Martin said Friday. “They got a lot of young players but they do not play like freshman. Games like these are why I believe that Miami vs. FSU is the best rivalry in college baseball.”
Martin’s comments came after Brian Barton’s bottom of the ninth frozen rope to the gap in left center field, with two men on base, was run down by speedy Seminole center fielder Matt Sauls to end the game. The catch marked one of many defensive highlights that kept Hurricane runs off the scoreboard.
“I thought it was a double,” Martin said. “I truly thought they had tied the game and I was thinking who the next hitter was going to be and then boom, he caught it.”
Morris had a similar reaction.
“I thought for sure it was going to fall in for a double,” Morris said. “Brian hit the ball well and that’s all you can ask in these types of situations.”
Some foul-ups on the base paths also cost Miami Friday when two base runners were thrown out on strike ’em out, throw ’em out double plays to end innings.
Despite base running mistakes, UM pitching and defense kept Miami in the first two contests. However, shortstop Paco Figueroa committed two costly errors Sunday.
With the FSU series behind them, the ‘Canes look to the future. The future however, holds three more games this weekend against the Seminoles in Tallahassee. The question will be whether or not the ‘Canes can make the adjustments needed to notch the victories against FSU in their own stadium.
The disappointing weekend might leave UM fans wondering where this puts the squad in the big picture.
When the new rankings came out this weekend, the Baseball America poll dropped Miami (28-9-1) from 12th to 16th, but that would still be enough for Miami to host an NCAA regional at Mark Light Field. If the ‘Canes want to hold onto one of the top 16 spots, the players know what they have to do.
“We should have won that game,” shortstop Ryan Braun said after Friday’s loss. “You just have to keep going and come out strong the next day.”
As an omen to how last week’s games were going to go for Miami, Morris wrecked his brand new Porsche before the series opener.
“Losing the game hurts more than losing the car,” Morris said. “You can always get a new car.”
Miami will try to get a new car this weekend at Dick Howser Stadium.
Ryan Ellis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org