The sign over the University of Miami baseball dugout at Alex Rodriguez Park says “NCAA RECORD 40 STRAIGHT NCAA TOURNAMENTS.”
Expect maintenance workers to change “40” to “41” any day now.
The Hurricanes — winners of national baseball titles in 1982, 1985, 1999 and 2001 — earned their 41st consecutive berth in the NCAA Division I baseball tournament Monday. That streak not only is the longest in college baseball, but also it ties Johns Hopkins lacrosse for the longest consecutive postseason berth for any sport in NCAA history.
The Canes (36-23), whose head coach Jim Morris is now at Duke University Hospital recovering from pneumonia, watched from their clubhouse as they were announced on ESPN as the No. 2 seed in the Louisville (Ky.) Regional. They will face No. 3 Oklahoma State (39-17) at 2 p.m. Friday.
Top-seeded Louisville (46-12) of the Big East will face No. 4 Bowling Green (24-29), the only team in the tournament with a losing record, at 6 p.m. Friday.
Should the Hurricanes win their double-elimination regional, they would face the winner of the Nashville regional, hosted by No. 2 national seed and top-ranked Vanderbilt (51-9). The eight super regional rounds will be played June 7-10.
Other Florida teams that made the tournament:
• No. 7 national seed Florida State (44-15), which meets Savannah State (33-21) at 5 p.m. Friday in Tallahassee.
• No. 3 regional seed Florida (29-28), which meets Austin Peay (45-13) at 1 p.m. Friday in Bloomington, Ind.
• No. 2 regional seed FAU (39-20), which won the Sun Belt Conference tournament and will meet Towson (29-28) at 1 p.m. Friday in Chapel Hill, N.C. — home of the No. 1 national seed North Carolina Tar Heels.
As of Monday it was still unknown if Morris will be well enough to travel to Louisville for the regional. He was transported by ambulance to the hospital Saturday and missed his team’s only victory (7-0 over Clemson) in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
“Right now they’re still running tests, and he hasn’t officially been released,’’ said UM assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Gino DiMare, who stepped into the role of head coach for the first time against Clemson. “You’ve got to be very careful about getting on a plane. Every hour we’re checking. But right now he’s resting and on medication.’’
DiMare, 43, was a talented outfielder for the Canes from 1989 to 1992 and began his college coaching career in Coral Gables in 1997 as a volunteer for three seasons, then continued as an assistant through 2008. He took off three years to spend more time with his family and returned in 2012.
DiMare said he played Morris’ lineup against Clemson and will continue to confer with Morris about lineups and the yet-to-be-determined pitching rotation against the Cowboys.
“We hope he can join us in Louisville,” DiMare said, “but we just don’t know.”
The Canes gathered quietly Monday to watch the NCAA selection show, but broke into cheers when their regional was announced. ESPN commentator Ben McDonald said the Louisville regional has the best pitching among all 16 first-round regionals.
“It may be a low-scoring regional,” McDonald said. “These guys can really bring it — low ERAs.”
UM’s ace, left-handed junior Bryan Radziewski, is 9-2 and has a 1.49 ERA that is the second lowest of any pitcher in the ACC, the league that qualified eight teams for the 64-team tournament.
“It was nice,” a grinning Radziewski said of his name being shown on TV.
Teammate Chantz Mack, the senior right fielder who leads the Canes with a .297 batting average, said he was “pumped up” to go to Louisville.
Mack said he was relieved to learn UM had made the tournament.
“A lot of weight off my shoulders,” he said. “I was nervous toward the end of the season that we might not make it. Just watching the selection show I was getting sweaty palms. Once they said ‘Louisville,’ I was elated.”
Oklahoma State’s first-year coach Josh Holliday said he was excited for his players because of how hard they worked all season, despite the Cowboys losing three in a row to TCU, Kansas and West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament.
“It’s their team, it’s their year and they played really well all year long,” Holliday said. “I wanted them to have this opportunity.”
Cowboys third baseman Robbie Rea called their NCAA tournament berth “a great feeling.”
“I drove by Louisville’s field this summer,” he said. “It’s a nice park. And growing up, I’ve always seen Miami in the College World Series. It will be a dream come true to play them. Hopefully we can get a W.”
The eight super regional winners advance to the 67th College World Series in Omaha, Neb., set to begin June 15. In 2012, the Canes went 0-2 in the Coral Gables Regional to end their season.
“It’s a whole new year,” UM third baseman David Thompson said. “Anything can happen. Hopefully, we can be one of those Cinderella teams and make a good run at Omaha. We think we can play with anyone.”
If the Canes win Friday, they would play the winner of the Louisville-Bowling Green game at 5 p.m. Saturday. If they lose, they would play the loser of that game at noon Saturday.
The weekend regional could end as late as Monday night or as early as Sunday evening. All Louisville regional games will be televised by ESPN3.
Should UM qualify for another regional next season, it would set the record for the longest NCAA postseason streak for any sport. John Hopkins’ lacrosse streak ended when the team was left out of the 2013 tournament field.
“We understand the tradition here,” UM pitcher Javi Salas said. “It’s on top of our dugout. We want to continue the legacy.”