Before the all-Miami-Dade County main event on Friday night at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, East Carolina and Columbia gave Miami baseball fans the appetizer before the entrée.
Jumpstarted by a leadoff home run and a five-run sixth inning, Columbia, the No.3 seed in the Coral Gables Regional, upset second-seeded East Carolina 6-3.
The Lions (32-15) advance to face the winner of the Miami-FIU nightcap, while the Pirates (40-21) drop into the losers’ bracket, where they will face the loser between the Hurricanes and Panthers in an elimination game.
Columbia, which went a quick two-and-out in the same regional last season, earned the second NCAA tournament victory in its program’s history.
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“The confidence level is real high for our team,” Columbia coach Brett Boretti said. “There’s a belief that we can be successful this weekend.”
Jordan Serena led off the regional game with a homer off the scoreboard beyond the left-field wall that’s usually reserved for UM slugger David Thompson. Columbia took advantage of an East Carolina throwing error in the five-run sixth that could have otherwise ended the threat, taking the lead with two runs on the miscue. It then added two runs on a bloop double by Joe Falcone.
Columbia starter George Thanopoulos (6-5) earned the victory by going 52/3 innings, giving up three runs — two of them earned — on five hits while striking out six.
Adam Cline shut down East Carolina for the final 31/3 innings, striking out three and earning the save. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the sixth and ended the game with a strikeout of Luke Lowery.