The Hurricanes had their chances. Nine to be exact.
Arizona’s Colt Sedbrook started a two-out rally in the top of the eleventh when he was hit by a pitch and Brad Glenn singled to left to put runners at first and second. All that led to a Jon Gaston’s 12th home run of the season that went off the light pole in right to give Arizona a 6-3 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“The emotion is unreal,” Gaston said. “[It is] by far the biggest ever hit – in a super-regional against a great team like Miami. It’s an exciting feeling.”
Arizona’s (42-17) bullpen combined to go six and two-third shutout innings after starter Preston Guilmet was pulled in just four and one-thirds as Jason Stoffel improved his record to 4-2 with three hitless innings of relief.
Closer Carlos Gutierrez (5-3) took the loss for the Canes (50-9) by giving up the three-run homer. He had taken over for reliever Kyle Bellamy who pitched two and two-third scoreless innings and finished his final six batters via strikeouts. Chris Hernandez, a finalist for the Roger Clemens Award, which honors the year’s best pitcher in college baseball, went six and one-thirds and gave up three runs on three hits.
“What a great college baseball game,” Wildcat head coach Andy Lopez said. “That’s a great one to win, bad one to lose.”
Extra innings didn’t seem necessary back in the bottom of the ninth.
After a leadoff double to deep center by Dennis Raben when T.J. Steele got turned around on the ball, pinch runner Jonathan Weislow entered the game at second. After Blake Tekotte stared at strike three, Jemile Weeks, the 12th overall pick in the MLB Draft earlier in the day, was hit by a pitch to bring up Yonder Alonso, the seventh selection, with one out. Alonso belted a line drive into right center, but the ball was caught by Steele who doubled up Weislow as he was rounding third.
“I put some good bat on it and I thought it was going to drop,” Alonso said. “We hit a lot of balls all night hard and it’s just part of the game. Sometimes you have to play small ball and it just happens.”
Miami went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and didn’t score after the third inning.
Seven runners were stranded by the offense in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings combined as reliever Ryan Perry came in with two runners already on for the Canes in the fifth. His fastball, which was clocked in the upper 90’s, breezed by both Weeks and Mark Sobolewski, who left the bases loaded and failed to extend the 3-2 lead. In the sixth, Raben’s magical Mohawk helped him to a one-out double deep to straight away center and Dave DiNatale followed with a walk. However, neither could be brought home by Adan Severino or Yasmani Grandal.
“I knew once I started pitching they were going to have to extend me,” Perry said. “I made a few mistakes and they just missed them.”
Those five left on base in the fifth and six came back to haunt Miami as Glenn led off with a single to start the seventh and advanced to both second and third on a ball blocked by Grandal and wild pitch thrown by Bellamy. Glenn easily scored on Steele’s single to left with two outs and two strikes to tie the game up at three.
In the top of the second, Hernandez faced trouble when he walked Gaston on five pitches. The next batter C.J. Ziegler hit into a fielder’s choice that should’ve been an easy double play had shortstop Ryan Jackson’s throw not bounced. It left Alonso seeking assistance from both the trainer and head coach Jim Morris. Steele took advantage of the misplay and jacked a two-run shot deep over the left field wall for an early 2-0 Wildcat lead.
“We came in knowing that the left-handed pitcher threw cutters and I sat on it and hit it,” Steele said.
The Canes came back in the bottom of the third with a run of their own when Severino led off with his seventh double of the season, which barely stayed fair past first base as a fan scooped the ball up with what could’ve been a triple. The ninth batter Grandal moved Severino over on a groundout and Tekotte got an RBI when he hit a ball to the second baseman.
“This was a big win for these guys and I’m real proud of this group,” Lopez said. “We still have another one or two to get out of this thing.”
Tomorrow’s start time for the second game of the super-regional is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN and broadcast on the radio on WVUM 90.5 FM and WQAM 560. The scheduled pitching matchup is between Miami’s Eric Erickson (8-1, 4.13 ERA) and Arizona’s David Coulon (8-3, 3.54 ERA).
“The bottom line is our guys played really hard, hit pretty hard,” Morris said. “I’m confident we can come back tomorrow and battle those guys.”
Christina De Nicola may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.