The Hurricanes baseball team continued working this summer as they made their 34th consecutive appearance in postseason play, a new NCAA record.
Miami secured a spot in the Lincoln Regional and defeated lesser seeds San Francisco 11-2, as well as Manhattan twice 8-2, 10-4 to advance to the Super Regionals in a best of three match-up with Ole Miss.
Miami led Ole Miss 9-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth. Hurricane pitchers Scott Maine, Jon McLean, and Andrew Lane combined to give up eight runs over the next two innings, allowing the Rebels to clench the game 11-9.
“Our coaches told us to stay focused,” first baseman Yonder Alonso said. “When pressure comes in, we have a different attitude.”
With the loss, Miami faced elimination in the Super Regionals.
Danny Gil had been a key setup man for most of the year, but was forced into starting duty when Carlos Gutierrez went down with injury. He pitched six shutout innings in route to a 7-0 victory against Ole Miss.
Back on their feet, Miami was one win away from the College World Series.
“In order to go to the College World Series, you need someone to step up and do something unexpected,” Head Coach Jim Morris said.
The pitching performances were less solid in the decisive third game of the Super Regionals against Ole Miss, but third baseman Danny Valencia picked up the slack with seven RBI’s and two homeruns. Valencia’s grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning put Miami in front 13-8.
The ‘Canes went on to win 14-9.
“I remember how we lost the first game,” Morris said. “[Our] team had competitiveness and team work needed to win in a tough atmosphere. I don’t think I have ever seen the same electricity as I saw with that team then.”
Miami won one game in Omaha against Oregon State and lost two straight games to be eliminated. Ironically, Oregon State went on to win the CWS against North Carolina, claiming two of three games in the series.
The Hurricanes’ appearance in the College World Series, although brief, was promising after the tough season for the young team.
Florida swept Miami early in the season at home. During a six game home stand, the Hurricanes lost to Clemson and all but one game in the series against North Carolina. The ‘Canes lost another series at home to Virginia and lost five of their last seven games before entering the NCAA tournament.
The Hurricanes kept their focus and several younger players began to fill large roles on the team.
Dennis Raben reached base safely in eight of the nine NCAA tournament games. Jemile Weeks batted .459 in the tournament and drove in 12 runs and Alonso added six RBIs.
“Some of the freshman turned it up and just got it,” Morris said.
Carlos Gutierrez became an underlying story in the post-season madness. He injured his elbow toward the end of the season and was initially thought to need Tommy John surgery. However, the doctors later told the coaching staff that only rehab would be needed to repair the injury.
After being assured by doctors that Gutierrez was ready to play again, the coaching staff turned to their former ace one more time. This start resulted in two negative outcomes. One, Gutierrez allowed four runs in two innings during Miami’s final game of the season against Oregon State, a game the ‘Canes lost 8-1.
The worse news was Gutierrez had furthered the injury and is now forced to miss the entire 2007 season with the Tommy John surgery he was thought to have needed initially.
“He had thrown two good bullpen sessions prior to his start,” Morris said. “Doctors told us no matter what, he couldn’t hurt it anymore then he had.”
Denis Brown may be contacted at email@example.com