The Miami Hurricanes were thrilled this week to be awarded an NCAA regional at Alex Rodriguez Park. Now, they’ll be ecstatic to escape Saturday’s losers’ bracket with a victory.
You read that correctly.
The top-seeded Hurricanes, who came into Friday’s NCAA Coral Gables Regional having won 21 consecutive regional home openers, lost their first regional home opener since 1978 – a 10-2 implosion at the hands of No. 4 seed Stony Brook.
Stony Brook, which has won 12 straight and 23 of its past 24 games, is the only team in Division I to rank in the nation’s Top 10 in batting average, ERA and fielding percentage. And the Seawolves (47-11) looked like it Friday, smacking 11 hits and making some spectacular plays in the field. They played as if they were the No. 1 seed, while the Canes (36-22) impersonated No. 4 – maybe worse.
Miami is one game from being eliminated. It would be the first time the Canes lose a home regional since falling to The Citadel in 1990. The Hurricanes will face Missouri State, which lost 2-1 to UCF in Friday’s regional opener, at 2 p.m. Saturday. The loser is eliminated.
“This is the worst big game that the University of Miami has played in my entire coaching career – in all phases,” UM coach Jim Morris said. “I’m very sad to have watched the way we played the game tonight.”
Stony Brook will meet No. 2 seed UCF at 7 p.m. Saturday.
CANES SLOPPY IN FIELD
UM, among the worst teams in the nation defensively (98 errors and 235th in fielding percentage of 291 Division I teams), continued its sloppiness in the field. Starting pitcher Eric Erickson, a graduate student back this season after two reconstructive elbow surgeries, savored the opportunity to pitch one more time at Mark Light Field. But even Erickson (8-6, 2.88 ERA), who allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits in five innings, wasn’t his usual steady self.
Meanwhile, Stony Brook starter Tyler Johnson (10-1, 1.86) pitched a strong game, scattering eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. He allowed two earned runs.
The Canes committed three errors, two in the second inning and one in the seventh, when reliever Adam Sargent took a routine grounder at the mound and fired it into center field to score William Carmona for a 6-2 Stony Brook lead.
In the second inning, Maxx Tissenbaum (three hits, three RBI) led off with a short fly to left field that turned into a double when UM left fielder Rony Rodriguez, third baseman Brad Fieger and shortstop Jarred Mederos watched it fall between them. Erickson then fielded a bunt by Tanner Nivins and threw to first baseman Peter O’Brien, who was charged with the error. Tissenbaum scored on the play to make it 1-0.
CRUSHING HOME RUN
The Seawolves made it 2-0 when Kevin Krause followed Nivins with another bunt, again fielded by Erickson, who overthrew O’Brien.
Carmona’s three-run blast to right in the eighth, which made it 9-2, sealed the victory.
UM scored in the fourth on a two-run homer to left by Brad Fieger.
“Stony Brook came to play tonight,’’ Erickson said. “They did everything right and we did everything wrong. We didn’t underestimate them. We were just flat tonight.
“We cannot quit. The season is not over. We have to come out [Saturday] and play the game with our entire hearts. Whatever happens, happens. But we have to go down fighting.’’
In ’78, the only time the Canes lost their home regional opener, they fell to Clemson. They then won four straight to win the regional.