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Miami Hurricanes meets an ugly ending in NCAA regional tournament

Few college baseball aficionados could have imagined the Miami Hurricanes would end their 2012 season with two losses in a row in an NCAA regional at their home field. Even fewer could have fathomed the Hurricanes would be outscored 22-4 in those games.

But a day after being humiliated 10-2 by No. 4 seed Stony Brook in the Coral Gables Regional opener at Alex Rodriguez Park, the top-seeded Hurricanes fell 12-2 to No. 3 seed Missouri State (40-21).

The tournament, which also includes second-seeded UCF, will go on without the Canes (36-23). But for longtime coach Jim Morris, who was asked after the game about growing fan criticism and whether he believes he has the support of the UM administration, the nightmare lingers.

“First of all, I understand,” Morris said. “Our fans, along with me, are very spoiled. I know they’re frustrated. I know they’re calling for my head. I mean, I’m not crazy. I’ve heard people say that. We’re expected to go to Omaha [for the College World Series] every year, and that’s a very, very tough thing.

“I can only say we’ve got to get better. We’ve got to coach better as a staff. We’ve got to execute better as a team. … We’re not trying any less hard than we did when we went 11 times to the World Series out of my first 15 years, or six times in a row. It just doesn’t happen very much.”

The four-time national champion Hurricanes went two-and-out in the postseason for the first time since 1993. That year, Brad Kelley was coach. Morris, who brought national titles to Miami in 1999 and 2001 and just guided the Canes to their national-record 40th consecutive postseason, took over in 1994.

“Miami baseball is as good a place as anywhere in America,” Morris said. “I left the No. 1 team in the country, Georgia Tech, to come to what I thought was the best program in the country. Best decision I ever made.

“… We just have to figure out how to get it going again — big time. Around here, it doesn’t mean get it going. It means get it going big time or you’re not happy.”

Asked if he had the support of athletic director Shawn Eichorst and UM president Donna Shalala, both of whom attended the game, Morris, 62, said, “I think so. We’ll find out I guess, huh? But yeah, I feel like it.”

This season, Morris’ Canes lacked in every part of the game, from fielding to hitting to baserunning — and even, at the end, with pitching.

Left-handed junior Steven Ewing came into Saturday’s game 6-2 with a 3.28 ERA. In his last outing at the ACC tournament, Ewing pitched a strong eight innings in a victory over national power North Carolina.

But Ewing crumbled Saturday, allowing seven runs (six earned) on six hits and two walks in just two-thirds of an inning.

“I just wasn’t throwing strikes; that’s all it was,” said Ewing, who looked as dazed as his teammate, Peter O’Brien, at the postgame news conference. “We came out expecting to win and didn’t execute.’’

Hurricanes reliever Javi Salas — one of five UM pitchers Saturday — gave up two runs in the second inning, and at 9-0 it was all but over.

The Canes mustered just six hits, stymied by Missouri State pitcher Pierce Johnson (4-6, 2.53 ERA) in an impressive eight innings.

“It’s definitely a tough way to go out and definitely not the type of team we had,” said O’Brien, who ended the season with a .340 average and now awaits the start of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft on Monday. “To be quite honest, I’m not even thinking about [the draft] right now. I’m still pretty torn apart from losing.”

Much of the sparse crowd of 1,176 had departed before the painful ending.

UM players leaned over the railing in front of the dugout with their heads hung low.

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