David Thompson stood a few steps away from the tunnel that would lead him to the Miami team bus late Wednesday night.
Thompson’s white jersey was caked in red clay but he was in no hurry to take off his uniform, knowing he wouldn’t wear it anymore.
Drafted in the fourth round by the New York Mets, Thompson said Wednesday’s 10-2 loss to the Florida Gators at the College World Series was his final game as a Hurricane — the junior third baseman one of perhaps four high-profile players who may have played their last game for Miami in Omaha.
“This was my last game here and I love this team, love being a Hurricane, and it hurts to know I won’t be putting this uniform on again,” Thompson said.
“I’m just hurting knowing that it’s over for me at Miami. Being in Omaha was a great way to end it. I just wish we would have played better out here, wish I could have hit better here. I love the guys on this team, these are my brothers. I’ve played with them my whole life.’’
Miami coach Jim Morris said although he hasn’t had time to reflect on this year’s successes — the Hurricanes won 50 games and made it to Omaha for the 24th time — he is looking forward to next season.
Although the Hurricanes will lose their best hitter (Thompson led college baseball with 90 RBI), pitcher (junior ace Andy Suarez is expected to sign with San Francisco) and catcher (senior Garrett Kennedy was drafted by the Dodgers in the 14th round), Miami should be a contender for another trip to the CWS in 2016.
Others who could move on include junior second baseman George Iskenderian (seventh round, Milwaukee) and junior outfielder Ricky Eusebio (16th round, Seattle).
“Getting back to Omaha is a big step for us. I’m proud of the fact we’re back here,” Morris said.
“I realize how hard it is to get to this particular level. There’s a lot of great teams in the country who didn’t get to this level. I think that we’ve kind of taken a step. We’ve got an outstanding recruiting class coming in, and I’m sure we’ll lose some of our juniors and of course our seniors, but we’ll have a good club next year. We just have to build on what we’ve done this year.’’
Miami will likely replace Suarez with No. 2 starter Thomas Woodrey, with freshman reliever Michael Mediavilla stepping into the rotation.
Zack Collins is expected to replace Kennedy behind the plate on a full-time basis (Collins caught games Suarez pitched) with almost all of the infield and outfield likely returning.
Miami will add depth through its recent recruiting class, with coveted outfielder Kep Brown saying he would turn down the Cardinals after being selected in the 10th round and come to Coral Gables.
Brown, out of South Carolina, tore his Achilles tendon this past season but expects to be ready for his freshman year with the Hurricanes.
Miami also has a strong class of junior commitments, which bodes well for 2017.
“I think we have a really good recruiting class coming and a great nucleus returning,” Morris said. “We’re going to be pretty good. I’m proud we got back to Omaha, we’re one of eight out of 300-something teams in the country. We haven’t been here for a while. They got to see it, see what it’s all about.”
▪ Morris said Suarez asked to start Wednesday but Morris declined because he would be going on four days’ rest.
Enrique Sosa, who hadn’t pitched since the regional, got off to a rough start by giving up three runs on two homers in the top of the first and was replaced by Suarez in the second.
Morris added that Suarez actually wanted to pitch Monday against Arkansas.
“That’s a good thing because he wants the ball. I credit him for that,” Morris said.
“We felt like if [Sosa] struggled any at all, we had to get him out, because he hadn’t been pitching much in about a month with some issues he had, but nothing serious. … We felt we could patch it together.”