UM Baseball

Miami Hurricanes begin regional without Jim Morris at helm

 

UM opens its NCAA regional against Oklahoma State in Louisville, Ky., with assistant coach Gino DiMare filling in for ailing coach Jim Morris.

NCAA regional

Where: Jim Patterson Stadium, Louisville, Ky.

Friday’s games: No. 2 seed UM Hurricanes (36-23) vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State Cowboys (39-17) at 2 p.m., and No. 1 seed Louisville Cardinals (46-12) vs. No. 4 seed Bowling Green Falcons (24-29) at 6 p.m.

Starting pitchers for UM game: UM sophomore LHP Chris Diaz (6-5, 1.75 ERA) vs. OSU sophomore RHP Jason Hursh (6-4, 2.65).

Online broadcast: ESPN3.

Radio: WQAM 560, WVUM 90.5 FM.


sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

The University of Miami announced that UM baseball coach Jim Morris, 63, who has pneumonia and has been in the hospital since last Saturday, will miss the NCAA Louisville Regional.

Morris had hoped to leave Duke University Hospital sometime today to join the team in Louisville for the Saturday game, but subsequent tests necessitated that he still needed time to recuperate.

Assistant Gino DiMare, Miami’s recruiting coordinator and hitting coach, will, as planned, take over the head-coaching responsibilities until Morris gets better.

Before last Saturday in the ACC Tournament, UM hitting coach and recruiting coordinator DiMare, 43, had only served as the head guy, he said, when Morris “has gotten thrown out. And he doesn’t get thrown out often.’’

The Canes defeated Clemson 7-0 last Saturday with Morris at the hospital, where he was taken by ambulance before the game.

“I’ve got to be honest. It felt different than my normal routine,’’ DiMare said of his temporary role. “It’s fun. I enjoyed it.

“Your mind is thinking totally. But my mind is thinking like that always anyway. I’ll continue to do the same things. I’m positioning the outfielders [and] I’m going to continue to talk to the hitters like I always do… and make adjustments.’’

DiMare said he's close with Morris, and feels no pressure or awkwardness in temporarily taking over. He said Morris' health is obviously most important.

“I’ve never had pneumonia,’’ DiMare said. “But it is quite serious. They’ve got to clear his lungs first. He’s had some fluid in there that they drained. They want to make sure his chest is clear…’’

On Friday, the No. 2 seed Hurricanes (36-23) will open their double-elimination NCAA regional against No. 3 seed Oklahoma State (39-17) in Louisville, Ky. Their immediate goal: pulling off the upset and advancing to the super regional next weekend against the winner of the Nashville regional — the final step before a possible CWS berth.

No. 1 seed Louisville (46-12) will face No. 4 seed Bowling Green (24-29) at 6 p.m.

“I just really want to go,” UM right fielder Chantz Mack, a senior, said of Omaha, Neb., where the CWS is played. “I’ve heard so much about it from the past players and coaches. They say it’s the experience of a lifetime.”

But first, as Mack pointed out, the Canes must get past the Cowboys in the regional opener at 2 p.m. at Jim Patterson Stadium.

Left-handed sophomore Chris Diaz (6-5, 1.75 ERA) will start for UM against right-handed sophomore Jason Hursh (6-4, 2.65).

Diaz gave up six runs, but only three of them earned, on eight hits and four walks in six innings during a 7-1 loss to North Carolina State on May 24 in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Hursh, drafted in the sixth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010, sat out last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. His most recent appearance on May 23 was a no-decision against TCU in the Big 12 tournament. But he gave up only one unearned run in that 8-4 loss and has a fastball approaching 99 mph.

“This guy is a special guy,” DiMare said of Hursh. “We’re very aware of that.”

OSU finished second in the Big 12 standings with a 13-10 league record but lost all three Big 12 tournament games. The Cowboys enter the regional with a .285 batting average and a composite 2.93 ERA.

UM’s strength is its starting pitching and closer Eric Nedeljkovic (1.37 ERA with 13 saves).

Its weakness: a .260 team batting average that contributes to its lack of timely hitting for runs.

The last time Miami qualified for the CWS was in 2008. Last season, after earning the right to host a regional with the same record they have now, the Canes were eliminated from the NCAA tournament after losing two in a row.

It was the first time UM went two and out in the postseason since 1993. Even worse: the Canes were outscored 22-4 in those games.

“That was just a meltdown,” Mack said of the 2012 regional. “It taught me not to underestimate anybody.”

Before last Saturday in the ACC tournament, UM hitting coach and recruiting coordinator DiMare, 43, had only served as the head guy, he said, when Morris “has gotten thrown out. And he doesn’t get thrown out often.”

The Canes defeated Clemson 7-0 last Saturday with Morris, 63, in Duke University Hospital, where he was taken by ambulance before the game and still remains.

“I’ve got to be honest. It felt different than my normal routine,” DiMare said. “It’s fun. I enjoyed it.

“Your mind is thinking totally. But my mind is thinking like that always anyway. I’ll continue to do the same things. I’m positioning the outfielders, [and] I’m going to continue to talk to the hitters like I always do … and make adjustments.”

DiMare said Thursday that he intended to call Morris, who needs to be released by doctors before he can leave Durham, N.C., to go to Louisville.

“I’ve never had pneumonia,” DiMare said. “But it is quite serious. They’ve got to clear his lungs first. He’s had some fluid in there that they drained. They want to make sure his chest is clear …

“The earliest he would be here would be [Friday] night.”

DiMare insisted the situation isn’t an awkward one, even with the pressure building on Morris to get back to Omaha.

“Hey, look, hopefully Coach is back. If the opportunity calls for it again and he’s not here, it’s my responsibility, and I’ll look forward to that. But Coach and I have a great relationship. We’re close on and off the field.”

The winner of the UM game will face the winner of the Louisville-Bowling Green game at 5 p.m. Saturday, with the two losers playing at noon.

Miami Herald correspondent Tom Whitus contributed to this report.

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