‘Canes see early exit in NCAA tourney

The Hurricanes’ baseball team had never lost an NCAA regional coming into last season. In sports, some streaks must eventually come to an end.

Miami lost its first regional since the 1993 season at the hands of Louisville. The Cardinals defeated the Hurricanes twice in regional play in Columbia, Miss. in the first week of June.

Many fans considered the Hurricanes’ finish a disappointment since the team was ranked second by Baseball America in a pre-season poll.

The Hurricanes entered the double-elimination regional as the number two seed in a bracket with Missouri, Louisville and Kent State.

Miami’s strength had been its starting pitching in the final month of the season. The trio of Scott Maine, Eric Erickson and Enrique Garcia came on strong and had been fairly consistent.

Miami’s pitching staff, though, would have no answer for Louisville, who scorched Hurricane pitching for 22 runs in two games.

After Maine was given a 7-3 lead through two innings, Louisville quickly chased him from the game. Maine allowed seven runs in just four innings, which marked his last career appearance.

With the game tied up at 7-7 entering the fifth, Louisville scored six unanswered runs against Miami’s bullpen for the victory.

The loss snapped a 10 consecutive game win streak in NCAA Regional-openers. Miami would avoid elimination against Kent State with an 8-7 victory.

Closer Danny Gil picked up the final save of his career, striking out a batter with the bases loaded in the eighth and then stranding the trying run at first in the ninth.

Miami’s season came to an end with their most reliable starter on the mound.

Erickson, who had been the most consistent starter on the staff and delivered both wins against Florida State earlier that season, struggled and allowed seven runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Miami had the tying run on first base in the ninth, but would fall short by an 8-7 score.

The Hurricanes appeared to be getting on the right track before postseason play, winning nine of their final 10 games. Miami took advantage of its schedule down the stretch, sweeping Wright State and Duke at home while taking two of three on the road against Wake Forest.

Despite the winning streak, the Hurricanes headed into regional play on a sour note after going 1-2 in the ACC Tournament.
If Miami had succeeded in Jacksonville, the team may have hosted an NCAA Regional.

Miami lost in heartbreaking fashion during the tournament opener, allowing Clemson to rally for a 5-4 win in 13 innings. After Miami scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 13th,

Clemson scored twice in the bottom half for the win.

The Hurricanes responded to defeat rival Florida State 9-3, receiving eight strong innings from Erickson.

Miami was listless in a 7-3 loss to Wake Forest to close the tournament.

The Hurricanes just did not have the makeup for a second consecutive College World Series appearance.

Miami lost to teams they were expected to beat, losing four combined games to Mercer, St. Bonaventure and North Florida.

Miami’s bullpen was an issue all season, receiving little consistency from its middle relief.

The Hurricanes lineup also did not reach its full potential, especially because of an injury to second baseman Jemile Weeks midway through the season.

Miami had trouble finding contributions from the catcher and left field position at times as well.

Despite the season result, many players put up some outstanding numbers on the field.

First baseman Yonder Alonso led the Hurricanes with 18 homers and 74 RBI, centerfielder Blake Tekotte had a breakthrough season from the leadoff spot and newcomers Erickson, Garcia and third baseman/leftfielder Mark Soboleweski all made a significant impact.

Miami can also expect big contributions for the upcoming season from brothers Carlos and David Gutierrez, pitcher Jason Santana, Weeks and right fielder Dennis Raben.

With a core of juniors that may play just one more season, this talented group will have a chip on their shoulder to get back to Omaha.

Alex Kushel may be contacted at a.kushel@umiami.edu.