A day of many emotions ended in heartbreak for the Hurricanes.
Hours after celebrating the unveiling of a bronze, 7-foot tall statue of legendary baseball coach Ron Fraser outside of Mark Light Field, the No. 13 Hurricanes fell to No. 12 Florida State, 8-7, in 17 innings early Saturday morning.
The six-hour loss was the longest ever played at Mark Light Field and ties the longest game in UM history. The Canes also lost to the Seminoles in 17 innings in 2000, that time by the score of 14-13, in Tallahassee.
“It’s just disappointing we lost. We had a lot of opportunities to win the game,” said Hurricanes coach Jim Morris. “As a team we battled back numerous times to keep the game going, which is a good thing, but I thought we should’ve been able to score more runs.”
The Hurricanes came back to tie the game four separate times. The Canes tied the score at 4-4 in the seventh, 5-5 in the 11th, 6-6 in the 13th and 7-7 in the 14th.
A tired and emotionally drained George Iskenderian only had one comment when he found out this was the longest game in Mark Light Field history.
“Wish it was a win,” said the junior second baseman.
Sophomore Ben DeLuzio led off the 17th inning for the Seminoles with a single and quickly stole second to move into scoring position. DeLuzio scored the winning run on a wild pitch by sophomore pitcher Derik Beauprez, Miami’s eighth pitcher of the game.
The Hurricanes had a chance to tie it in the bottom of the inning, but a mental mistake after six hours of play ended the game. Junior Brandon Lopez took off for third base on a fly ball by freshman Justin Smith. Halfway there, Lopez realized he could not successfully tag up and was picked off sliding back into second base for a game-ending double play.
Quiet ninth and 10th innings led to a tense 11th frame.
FSU loaded the bases with one out and sophomore Quincy Nieporte due up to the plate. Nieporte, who homered and doubled twice earlier in the game, struck out swinging on a full-count fastball by sophomore closer Bryan Garcia.
After escaping the dangerous Nieporte, Garcia faced another full-count, this time against freshman Darren Miller. A low and outside fastball brought in a run for the Seminoles, giving FSU a 5-4 lead.
The Hurricanes didn’t flinch. Sophomore Christopher Barr led off the bottom of the 11th with a single to right field. A sacrifice bunt and two wild pitches later, the game was tied at 5-5.
Miami reached deep into its reserve of magic two innings later.
FSU freshman Timmy Delph knocked a double to left field to lead off the 13th inning. A line drive single to right field by junior DJ Stewart brought in Delph for the go-ahead run.
Refusing to let FSU ruin Miami’s nine-game home winning streak, sophomore Willie Abreu lined a single to center field to lead off the bottom of the 13th. Sophomore Jacob Heyward came in to pinch run for the emotional leader of the team, and scored the tying run an RBI single by junior Ricky Eusebio.
FSU and Miami traded single runs again in the 14th inning.
Before the game reached extra innings, Miami had to make its first unlikely comeback.
Miami fell behind 4-0 to FSU after five innings, but the Hurricanes kept fighting. Sophomore Willie Abreu kicked off the comeback in the bottom of the sixth with a sacrifice fly to bring in junior George Iskenderian to cut FSU’s lead to three.
The Seminoles put a scare into the Hurricanes in the top of seventh when two men reached base, but senior reliever Daniel Briggi induced an easy popup to get out of the jam.
The Canes took advantage of the missed opportunity and tied the game in the bottom of the inning.
Freshman Carl Chester scorched a double down the left field to lead off the crucial frame. Chester promptly scored on a throwing error by reliever Dylan Silva, who overthrew his third baseman on a sacrifice bunt by Eusebio. After a four-pitch walk by Iskenderian, sophomore Zack Collins lined an RBI-single into right field to bring in Eusebio and cut FSU’s lead to 4-3. Junior David Thompson evened the score with a sacrifice fly to center to plate Iskenderian.
A dramatic eighth inning saw both teams squander chances to take the lead. Chester gunned down shortstop Taylor Walls at the plate with a perfect throw from left field that beat the Seminole by 10 feet.
The Canes subsequently left two men on in scoring position to end the eighth inning. Chester thought he gave the Canes the lead on a two-out line drive to right field with sophomore Christopher Barr on first, but Barr was forced to remain on third when the ball snuck under the outfield fence.
The Hurricanes fall to 30-12 overall and 15-7 in ACC play while FSU advances to 32-12 overall and 15-7 in conference play. The Canes have two more chances this weekend to avenge the disappointing loss against the Seminoles.
However, not even a loss to FSU – or the intermittent rain throughout the night– could dampen the historic day for UM baseball. More than a dozen former players of the 1985 national championship team showed up to the unveiling ceremony of Fraser’s much-deserved statue three hours before the game started.
“He’s the first guy in college baseball to get a statue, and he totally deserves it,” Morris said of his mentor. “I think Fraser is the most influential person in the history of college baseball. He’s the most influential guy of my career. He’s a guy I loved.”
Fraser won two national championships and 1,271 games at Miami in his 30 years as head coach. “The Wizard of College Baseball” created the Sugarcanes, developed the Miami Maniac and pushed ESPN to televise college baseball games.
President Donna Shalala and athletics director Blake James attended the joyous occasion at the DiMare Family Champions Plaza outside of Alex Rodriguez Park. Fraser’s five grandchildren revealed the statue of the coach in a suit and tie, but with a bat on his shoulder, of course.
The Hurricanes face the Seminoles at 7 p.m. at the Light on Saturday.