Early in the week, players, coaches and media in Miami wondered why the top team and seed in the nation was dealt such a difficult regional.
On Sunday night in front of a sold-out crowd, the Hurricanes finished off third seed Mississippi 11-2 after Ole Miss defeated second-seeded Missouri in the noon game.
Lefty Eric Erickson (8-1) recovered from consecutive bad outings against North Carolina and Georgia Tech to pitch seven strong innings and give up two runs – a two-run home run by third baseman Cody Overbeck in the first – on six hits. He also had five strikeouts and no walks.
“My location was a lot better and I got ahead of hitters more effectively,” Erickson explained after the game.
Miami’s bats chased Rebel starter Nathan Baker (3-6), who gave up six runs on eight hits in only 2 2/3 innings of work.
Center fielder Blake Tekotte went 2-for-5 with a triple, RBI and two runs scored. Regional Tournament MVP Ryan Jackson finished with two hits, including a solo blast for his second dinger in as many games. Right fielder Dennis Raben, sporting a Mohawk as a new hairdo thanks to roommate Tekotte, also homered to center in the third.
“Last time [I got a Mohawk] I went on a tear,” Raben recalled. “It’s like a switch turns on.”
Tekotte set the tone for the Canes by legging out a drag bunt and scoring on second baseman Jemile Weeks’s double in the first. After first baseman Yonder Alonso flied out to left, Weeks tagged and made it easily to third, which paid off as third baseman Mark Sobolewski grounded out to second for an RBI. With two outs, Jackson hit his four-bagger off the scoreboard in left to make it 3-0 Hurricanes.
“It was good for us to get some runs on the board early,” head coach Jim Morris said. “Keep putting pressure on those guys.”
The Rebels (39-26) stormed back in the bottom half on Overbeck’s long ball that took its first bounce off the track behind the center field wall. Left fielder Logan Power preceded him with a single to left with two outs.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal worked a walk in the second with one out and Tekotte followed by hitting into a fielder’s choice, stealing his 26th bag and advancing on a throwing error by the catcher. At third with Weeks at the plate, Tekotte easily scored on Weeks’s second hit of the ballgame- a single to left.
Miami scored for the third inning in a row when Raben connected on his ninth home run, a two-run shot, which was his first hit of the regional. The ball landed in the football practice field behind the center field wall.
After Ole Miss pulled its starter for reliever Justin Cryer, designated hitter Jason Hagerty and Grandal got back-to-back hits on a single and double respectively to make the score 7-2.
Cryer, however, silenced the Canes’ bats until the eighth when Raben led off with a four pitch walk. Hagerty then followed with a successful sacrifice bunt to move Raben into scoring position when Tekotte legged out his fourth triple.
In the ninth, the Hurricanes tallied three more runs off two walks, an error and a double to finish the scoring for the night.
Six Canes were named to the All-Regional team- Weeks, Jackson, Grandal, Tekotte, left fielder Dave DiNatale and closer Carlos Gutierrez.
“I’m very happy with where we’re at,” Morris said. “The guys have played hard all year and there are very high expectations.”
Miami (50-8) will wait for the winner of the Ann Arbor regional, where Arizona (40-17) and Kentucky (44-18) play tonight.
Christina De Nicola may be contacted at email@example.com.