University of Miami

Andy Suarez masterful as Miami Hurricanes beat FIU Panthers in NCAA tournament matchup

FIU catcher Zach Soria (22) chases a ball that got by him after a strikeout by Miami first baseman Christopher Barr (17) in the second inning of their the NCAA Tournament game in the Coral Gables Regional at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables on May 29, 2015.
FIU catcher Zach Soria (22) chases a ball that got by him after a strikeout by Miami first baseman Christopher Barr (17) in the second inning of their the NCAA Tournament game in the Coral Gables Regional at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables on May 29, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The FIU Panthers exploded with 44 runs over four consecutive victories to earn a spot in the Coral Gables Regional, but the No. 5 national seed Miami Hurricanes were too much to overcome at Mark Light Field.

David Thompson, the nation’s RBI leader, had three of Miami’s six hits with three RBI on Friday night to fuel Miami (45-14) to a 6-2 victory over FIU.

The Hurricanes, victorious in 15 of their past 16 games, will face Columbia (32-15) at 7 p.m. Saturday in the winners’ bracket, with junior lefty Thomas Woodrey starting for UM.

“A win Saturday night is even bigger because it puts you in the championship game,” UM coach Jim Morris said. “We have to come out with a great effort.”

Miami left-handed starter Andy Suarez (8-1) silenced FIU for seven innings before being relieved by Cooper Hammond with no outs in the eighth. Hammond gave up a walk and back-to-back RBI-groundouts, both runs charged to Suarez.

But it wasn’t enough for FIU, as Hammond returned in the ninth and ended the game with three consecutive strikeouts.

Andres Nunez (6-6) allowed all six runs, five of them earned, in 61/3 innings for the loss.

It was UM’s first sellout — 4,817 strong — since March of 2012.

Suarez shocked Major League Baseball and his fellow Hurricanes when he gave up the $987,800 slot value as the 57th overall pick by the Washington Nationals to return to UM.

He pitched a masterful game until he gave up a single to Austin Rodriguez and hit Jack Schaaf with a pitch in the eighth.

He allowed the two earned runs on seven hits, with no walks and five strikeouts.

“Suarez for Miami did an excellent job,” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. “I think he’s the best left-hander we’ve seen all season.”

The second-round draft pick said he wanted to earn his degree in criminology, which, indeed, he did. He also said he wanted the chance to get to Omaha, Nebraska, for the College World Series.

Now, he’s one game closer in the double-elimination tournament.

“I’m happy,’’ Suarez said, when asked how he felt about his decision to return. “We got our win in the first game and, hopefully, we can make it to the super regional. My fastball, changeup and slider, I had command of all of them.’’

After Panther Zack Soria sent Suarez’s first pitch of the game to left field for a single, the UM hurler settled down and used only four more pitches — three of them strikes — to retire the side.

Canes take charge

The home-team Hurricanes then took charge, batting through the lineup and frazzling freshman Nunez — among others — with four runs on two hits, two walks, a hit batter and two errant throws by shortstop Julius Gaines.

Ricky Eusebio led off with a single, advanced to second on Gaines’ wild throw to first, went to third on a ground out by Chris Barr and scored on George Iskenderian’s fielder’s choice.

Thompson, a semifinalist for the Dick Howser and Golden Spikes Award, proceeded to rip a double down the third-base line to score Iskenderian and Zack Collins (walk) for a 3-0 Miami lead.

Crowd support

Thompson seemed more impressed with the capacity crowd than his performance.

“It was awesome,’’ said Thompson, now with 83 RBI. “Such a fun game to be around. It was so loud out there. It hasn’t been that loud once since I’ve been here.”

The Canes made it 4-0 on Willie Abreu’s infield chopper that scored Thompson.

First baseman Barr owned the top of the second for the Canes, as he nabbed a line drive by Brian Portelli, caught a pop foul by Josh Anderson and fielded a ground out by JC Escarra.

Then, it was all Canes again — with plenty of help by FIU.

Eusebio was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a pickoff attempt that got past first baseman Edwin Rios and went to third when Barr struck out but got to first on the wild pitch.

Iskenderian’s sacrifice fly made it 5-0, and Thompson’s subsequent single gave UM a 6-0 cushion.

East Carolina (40-21) meets the Panthers (29-30) at 1 p.m. in an elimination game.

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