University of Miami

After loss to Clemson, all that's left for UM baseball are prayers for a near-miracle

University of Miami baseball head coach Jim Morris, center, poses with his wife Nhan and son Will during a ceremony honoring his career prior to his last regular-season home game against Boston College at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables on Saturday, May 19, 2018.
University of Miami baseball head coach Jim Morris, center, poses with his wife Nhan and son Will during a ceremony honoring his career prior to his last regular-season home game against Boston College at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables on Saturday, May 19, 2018. snavarro@miamiherald.com

Their bats and gloves and baseball skills weren't enough Thursday night.

Now, the Miami Hurricanes will have to depend on the 10-member NCAA Division I Baseball Committee — and lots of prayers — to extend legendary coach Jim Morris' career and get the Canes to the NCAA tournament.

Clemson (45-13), with the No. 11 RPI of 297 teams, proved that they're one of the best programs in the nation by eliminating the Hurricanes (28-26) from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament 7-1 late Thursday in Durham, North Carolina.

The Division I committee will announce on Monday the 64-team field for the NCAA tournament that leads to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska — collegiate baseball's so-called promised land, where Morris brought his Hurricanes 13 times and earned national titles in 1999 and 2001 after taking the UM job in 1994.

But getting to the NCAA tournament would be close to a miracle for the Hurricanes, despite closing the season with the nation's second-longest win streak at 11 games before falling to the Tigers.

As of Friday morning, the Hurricanes had an RPI of 61 and 16-13 regular-season conference record.

The 31 winners of conference tournaments automatically advance to the NCAA tourney, meaning that some teams that might have done poorly in the regular season will fill some of those 64 spots. Another 33 teams will be selected as at-large participants.

Last season, when UM failed to make the tournament, snapping a national-record, 44-year streak, the Canes had the No. 41 RPI, 20 spots better than they have now. Their 2017 record was 31-27, with the same 16-13 ACC record they have now. But the tournament selection is made by humans, not computers, and Morris said in the post-game interviews that he still had hope, using Yogi Berra's "It ain't over till it's over'' theme.

"I want to see what happens Monday,'' Morris said in Durham. "We won 11 games in a row before tonight. We got a winning record in the ACC, which is one of the top conferences in the country. And I would hope that a winning record in the ACC would mean just as much as it would a record in the [Southeastern Conference] or any other conference, in particular the SEC because some clubs look like they're going to get in that have less than a .500 record in their conference, and we have some big wins.

"I think we started six freshmen tonight, and we've started five or six freshmen every game all year. Those guys have gotten better and they've improved, and we've just got to cross our fingers and say a prayer before we go to bed and hope that some way Monday we get in..."

UM senior captains Jeb Bargfeldt and Michael Burns joined Morris in the post-game conference, delivering tear-provoking messages of how much Morris meant to them and how badly they wanted to win for him.

"That man over there is what college baseball is all about,'' said Burns, the outfielder Morris took in as a transfer before the 2017 season, despite Burns having fought for his life with cancer the previous year. "You know, I never told him this, but he gave me my life back, and just did it by being himself.

"He acts with class all the time and... of course we wanted it for him. I wanted it for him so bad that it's coming out of me right now. It's for '3,' and he's an amazing man, an amazing coach...

"No matter what happens on Monday...I'm a proud Miami Hurricane, and I will always be a Miami Hurricane."

Added Bargfeldt, UM's ace pitcher who took the loss: "This guy is a legend and he's going to be on the college baseball Mount Rushmore for everybody. He should be, at least."

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