The road to Omaha became a wide-open highway for the University of Miami on Monday.
After being held to two hits by Columbia University in a demoralizing shutout-loss Sunday night, the Hurricanes slammed the gas pedal and roared back to defeat Columbia 21-3 — the largest margin of victory in Miami’s postseason history — for a berth in their first super regional since 2010.
Now, one team stands between the No. 5 national-seed Hurricanes (47-15) and their dream of returning to Omaha, Nebraska, for their first College World Series since 2008.
That team: Virginia Commonwealth (40-23), an unranked No. 4 regional seed that got into the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament by winning four consecutive games in the Atlantic 10 Tournament — and will meet the Hurricanes in a best-of-3 super regional series Friday through Sunday at Mark Light Field.
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“I’m very proud of the way our team played today after last night losing and getting shut out,” said UM coach Jim Morris, who thanked the crowd for filling the gates. “Before the game, I said, ‘We’ve got to get ahead in this game. I don’t care if it’s 1-0, 2-0, 4-0, whatever. We’ve got to get ahead in the game, put something on the board and get our confidence rolling.’
“… Then everything opened.”
The winners of the nation’s eight super regionals advance to the College World Series. Should UM win its super regional, the Canes would meet the winner of the Florida State at Florida super regional in the College World Series opener.
The Hurricanes, ranked 12th by Baseball America and eighth by the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, won national titles in 1982 and ’85 under Ron Fraser and in 1999 and ’01 under Morris.
Now they have the clearest path to Omaha since ’08, the last time the Canes hosted a super regional and beat Arizona to get there.
In 2010, they were eliminated by the Gators in the super regional in Gainesville and have not gotten past the regional round since then, including as a regional host in 2012 and ’14.
On Monday, in front of 3,115 rowdy fans at Mark Light Stadium, the Canes — designated the visitors — took charge immediately.
They scored four runs in the first, one apiece in the second and third, eight in the fourth, two in the fifth and four in the sixth for a 20-3 lead — the fourth time this season the Hurricanes scored at least 20 runs.
Carl Chester’s home run to left in the ninth made it 21-3.
Right fielder Willie Abreu raised his average to .299 with a 3-for-4 night, including a three-run homer in the sixth that he crushed over the right-field fence. His five-RBI night also included a triple.
“This is actually one of the toughest weeks I’ve had in my whole life,” a choked up Abreu said at UM’s postgame news conference. “My mom got real sick, and she had to be hospitalized [last] Monday.”
Abreu said the Canes were just as enthusiastic in Sunday’s loss as they were Monday.
“We always come to every game with a lot of enthusiasm and determination to win every ball game,’’ he said. “What happened [Sunday] night was unfortunate… but it showed [Monday] that we do have the firepower and team camaraderie. Everybody is together.”
The other Canes who had multiple hits Monday were Brandon Lopez (three hits, two RBI), Zack Collins (two hits, two RBI), David Thompson (two hits, two RBI) and Jacob Heyward (two hits, one RBI).
Twelve of UM’s 13 batters produced at least one hit, and every starter had a base hit by the fifth inning — around the same time VCU defeated No. 1 regional seed Dallas Baptist, the team that had the nation’s No. 1 RPI before Miami took its spot in late May.
Almost an afterthought: UM’s left-handed starter Danny Garcia (7-1, 3.25 ERA), who allowed the three earned runs on seven hits in six innings. He struck out seven.
The Canes used three relievers: Sam Abrams, Ryan Otero and closer Bryan Garcia.
Columbia, which ended its season at 34-17, went through six pitchers. Mike Weisman, who allowed four earned runs on four hits in the first inning, was charged with the loss.
“Tonight’s game, obviously we were running low on pitching,” said Columbia coach Brett Boretti, whose team played a doubleheader Sunday. “Give all the credit in the world to Miami for coming out and swinging the bats early and taking full advantage of guys getting on.
“You try to stop the bleeding as quickly as you can, but it was tough tonight.”