University of Miami

VCU a surprise next opponent for UM, but it has some quality pitching

University of Miami's George Iskenderian and David Thompson celebrate as they cross home plate as UM plays Columbia and hosts the Coral Gables Regional final on Monday, June 1, 2015
University of Miami's George Iskenderian and David Thompson celebrate as they cross home plate as UM plays Columbia and hosts the Coral Gables Regional final on Monday, June 1, 2015 MIAMI HERALD STAFF

With its rousing blowout victory coupled with a Virginia Commonwealth win over Dallas Baptist in the Dallas Regional, the University of Miami will go through No. 3 and No. 4 regional seeds to get to the College World Series.

That would be the equivalent of a college basketball team only facing teams seeded ninth or worse en route to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. The Hurricanes only saw Columbia and FIU in the Coral Gables Regional, the third and fourth-seeded teams.

The unranked Rams, however, have proven they are no joke. They jumped into the driver’s seat of the Dallas Regional with wins in their first two outings and took down top regional seed Dallas Baptist — the team that held the nation’s top RPI for most of the season — twice, including 3-1 in the finale.

VCU (40-23) is led by top hitter Vimael Machin, who is hitting .347 with a team-high 53 RBI.

The Rams have three key pitchers with earned run averages under 3.00. Ace Heath Dwyer is 10-2 with a 2.85 ERA and is followed by JoJo Howie, who isn’t far behind with a 2.93 ERA and 8-6 record. Closer Daniel Concepcion (2.58 ERA) had 14 saves.

BATS COME ALIVE

Canes fans coming into Monday’s finale were fearful another regional was going to turn into a baseball bat graveyard for UM.

With the way the lineup hit all season — ranking fifth in the nation in batting average and second in runs per game — the thought was the offense was too strong this year to falter when it mattered most, but the signs were growing eerily similar when a pair of freshman Columbia hurlers, Bryce Barr and Zack Bahm, combined for eight innings of a two-hit shutout of the Canes on Sunday to delay the super regional berth.

Last season it was freshman pitcher Dylan Dusek for Texas Tech that first put Miami in the losers’ bracket with eight innings of shutout ball. Then first-year Red Raider Cameron Smith, a junior college transfer, tossed a complete game shutout in the winner-take-all elimination game.

All those bad memories died quickly, however, as reports of another offensive meltdown proved greatly exaggerated as the Canes scored four runs in the first, eight in the fourth and eventually reached 21 runs.

FAST STARTS

Like it has done in its two regional wins and most of the season, UM scored early and often.

The Canes had six runs by the fourth in wins on Friday and Saturday and dwarfed that number with 14 by the fourth on Monday night.

Entering the regional, UM had scored 189 of its 471 runs — or 38.6 percent — in the first three innings of games.

GETTING PLUNKED

Miami leadoff man Ricky Eusebio is known for getting on base by any means with a .455 on-base percentage that ranks second among hitters in the starting lineup.

On Monday, he was hit by a pitch his first two times up to tie a UM postseason single-game record. His 19 hit batsmen on the season are third in UM history.

Columbia pitchers were certainly working the Canes inside early as four batters were hit by a pitch in the first two frames.

SPORT CELEBRITIES

The local college baseball postseason action brought out several well-known sports figures.

Most notably, Heat two-time champion and Duke grad Shane Battier was in attendance wearing the U on his cap on Sunday. His coach with the Heat, Erik Spoelstra, was at Mark Light Field on Saturday night.

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