Hurricanes tabbed No. 5 seed in NCAA Tournament
There were two key ingredients the past two times the University of Miami won college baseball national titles: home-field advantage on the way to Omaha and red-hot finishes to end the regular season.
“We won a lot at the end,” coach Jim Morris said of his 1999 team, which won 24 of its final 28 games, and the 2001 team, which ended on a 24-2 run.
“In ’99, we won 11 in a row to end the season. In 2001, we won 17 in a row to end the season, counting the World Series. So we’re playing good here at the end — and that’s when you want to be playing well.”
The 12th-ranked Hurricanes, winners of 14 of their past 15, have been hot for a couple of weeks. On Monday, they added maybe the most important piece to the puzzle when the NCAA tournament selection committee tabbed them as the fifth of eight national seeds in the 64-team bracket.
It guarantees UM (44-14) won’t have to leave the friendly confines of Alex Rodriguez Park until the College World Series gets underway June 13 in Nebraska. So not only will they host this weekend’s four-team, double-elimination regional round, but a best-of-3 super regional the following week against the winner of the Dallas Baptist Regional.
And considering UM was 31-4 this season as a host — the best home record in college baseball — that’s a pretty big advantage to have.
“We’re all just excited to be a top-eight seed,” Morris said. “That was our goal at the beginning of the season. We talked about it, to try to get every advantage we could.
“I didn’t know whether it was going to happen or not happen. If we hadn’t won two out of three in the ACC [tournament], I don’t think we’d be a national seed. But our guys have played very hard, fought very hard, and we’re excited to be hosting [potentially both the regional and super regional rounds].”
UM, which hasn’t been to the College World Series since 2008 (the last time it was one of the eight national seeds), will first have to get past a regional field that includes bitter rival FIU (29-29), which won the Conference USA tournament, Ivy League champion Columbia (31-15) and American Athletic Conference champion East Carolina (40-20).
The UM-FIU game will be played at 7 p.m. Friday, after Columbia and 23rd-ranked East Carolina meet at 1 p.m.
The Pirates, the No.2 seed in the Coral Gables Regional, have won eight in a row and have one of the nation’s top closers in Joe Ingle (0.88 ERA, 41 strikeouts, 8 saves).
Third-seeded Columbia lost both of its regional games last year in Coral Gables but never faced the Canes, who were eventually eliminated by Texas Tech.
UM and FIU haven’t faced each other since April 23, 2008. FIU won that game 6-3. This year, FIU is hitting .280 and has a team ERA of 3.98.
“They’re going to be a hyped team, want to beat us more than anybody in this regional,” said Canes catcher/designated hitter Zack Collins, who graduated from American Heritage in Broward County and knows several of FIU’s players.
Said UM pitcher Andy Suarez, a Miami Columbus grad: “It’s going to be a fun game because we haven’t played them since I’ve been here. Everybody talks about why don’t we play against each other.”
Should UM advance to the super regionals, something the Canes haven’t done since they lost at Florida in 2010, they will face the winner of the Dallas Baptist Regional.
The 14th-ranked Patriots (43-13), ranked No.1 in the RPI most of the season, are the only ranked team in that regional, according to Baseball America. The other teams there include Oregon State (38-16), Big 12 champion Texas (30-25) and Virginia Commonwealth (37-22).
Miami’s side of the bracket is lined up to face the winner of the Florida-Florida State regionals in Omaha. The Gators, who won the SEC title, are seeded fourth overall in the tournament.
▪ Tickets for this weekend’s regional tournament range between $45 and $120 and are available online. Single game tickets go on sale Thursday.