After getting drubbed in the ACC tournament opener, Miami was counting on left-hander Chris Diaz and his stellar 1.58 regular-season ERA to support the Hurricanes and ace Bryan Radziewski on Saturday, to potentially battle its way into the title game.
So much for that plan.
The all-ACC pitcher will just be trying to right the ship at this point as the Hurricanes were eliminated from winning the ACC crown after a 7-1 loss to 10th-ranked North Carolina State on Friday in yet another display of offensive ineptitude.
After a 10-0 loss to North Carolina and getting only four singles Thursday, the Hurricanes managed just five more singles in the loss to the Wolfpack.
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Miami’s strength of schedule number is impressive, but the Hurricanes (35-23) are certainly backing their way into what would be a 41st consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. Counting a 10-1 home loss to end the regular season against Georgia Tech, the Hurricanes have been outscored 27-2 in three games and haven’t registered an extra base hit during that 26-inning span.
“If anything, our lack of hitting has been a thorn in our side all year, not scoring runs and not getting two-out hits,” Miami coach Jim Morris said. “Our starting pitchers have pitched great all year and we stay in games when we play defense but we need to get some big hits.”
“North Carolina and NC State are both top 10 teams and they are great programs and you’ve got to score runs, you’re got to keep up with them and we’ve got to back up our starting pitching,” added Chantz Mack. “We really need to improve on scoring runs and that has to start (Saturday).”
Morris admitted his club is a bit down.
“It was a little quiet in the locker room, no question,” he said.
Meanwhile, N.C. State (44-13) improved to 26-3 in its past 29 games.
“I thought for the second straight game in the tournament we played extremely well, but I guess I could have said that for the last 30 games because we’ve played some really good baseball,” Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent said.
The Hurricanes fell behind early for the second tournament game in a row. Miami trailed North Carolina 3-0 after the first inning Thursday and this time gave up four runs in the second without a ball leaving the infield — except on one crucial error.
“Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes hits fall your way,” said N.C. State shortstop Trea Turner. “But our speed does that to a lot of teams, puts a lot of pressure on the other team’s defense.”
Diaz walked the leadoff hitter in the inning, then surrendered a sacrifice bunt single, a fielder’s choice and then another infield single before a potential inning-ending muffed throw by second-baseman Alex Hernandez allowed two runs to cross the plate in N.C. State’s four-run second.
“That one inning was a huge inning; it took us right out of the ballgame,” Morris said. “After that they threw strikes and went right after us.”
Said Diaz: “That inning was tough but it all started with a four-pitch walk. I’ve got to do a better job of going after hitters. I can’t give teams like N.C. State free bases.”
Trailing 5-1, the Hurricanes chased Wolfpack starter Logan Jernigan after two walks, but cleanup hitter David Thompson grounded into a bases-loaded double play and Brad Fieger followed with a foul territory pop out along the third base line as Miami failed to rally.
The Hurricanes have just one run and nine hits in two ACC tournament games so far heading into the Clemson game Saturday.
“They played like a top-10 club,” Morris said of the Wolfpack. “They get their first five runs with two outs and you’ve got to do things like that to have the number of wins they have. We didn’t. We’ve got to figure out a way to start getting some two-out hits.”