University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes baseball ends regular season. Will Canes be back at Mark Light Field?

Chris McMahon discusses UM’s win In the regular-season finale

The Miami Hurricanes played their final 2019 regular-season baseball game on Saturday at Mark Light Field. The Canes now head to the ACC Tournament in Durham, North Carolina to try to secure NCAA host status.
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The Miami Hurricanes played their final 2019 regular-season baseball game on Saturday at Mark Light Field. The Canes now head to the ACC Tournament in Durham, North Carolina to try to secure NCAA host status.

The first regular season of Gino DiMare’s head-coaching era ended Saturday at Mark Light Field.

But the Miami Hurricanes might be back to the Light before you know it.

Miami won its 10th weekend series of the season Saturday, defeating Duke 5-1 and buoying its hope of being named one of 16 regional host sites for the 64-team NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament that begins around the nation May 31.

UM’s 38-17 record (18-12 Atlantic Coast Conference) is its best at the end of the regular season since going 43-10 in 2016, the last time the four-time national champion Canes went to the College World Series and last time they reached the NCAA tournament.

“I’m just happy we got the series win,’’ DiMare said. “Good way to finish the regular season. I’m happy with where we’re at. I told the guys we don’t have to worry about watching the TV and seeing if we’re in the NCAA tournament or not. Miami should never have to ever worry about that.’’

UM baseball coach Gino DiMare discusses final regular-season victory against Duke on Saturday, May 18, 2019.

The Hurricanes will enter next week’s ACC tournament as the No. 4 seed of 12 teams, knowing they have an excellent shot of being named a regional host if they win at least one of their minimum two games in the ACC tourney. The host sites will be announced Sunday, May 26.

“We heard if we won this series there was not a 100-percent chance but a very good chance that we would host,’’ said winning pitcher Chris McMahon (3-2, 3.70), who allowed only one hit and struck out six in keeping Duke scoreless through five innings. “After that first inning I kind of went into the dugout trying to get them hyped because I don’t know if everyone knew what was on the line.

“I think it was a bigger game than a lot of people realized.”

UM will likely open ACC tournament play either Tuesday or Wednesday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, North Carolina, with the semifinals on Saturday and the title game at noon Sunday. Each of the 12 teams divided among four pools will play at least one game against the other competitors in their pool. UM’s Pool D will also include No. 5 seed North Carolina (38-17, 17-13) and No. 9 seed Virginia (32-22, 14-16).

The Canes lost two of three weekend games at then-No. 8 North Carolina in mid-March, and got swept by NC State the next weekend.

Saturday’s victory marked the Canes’ 10th series win of the season — with four series losses. UM was swept once, by current No. 13 NC State.

Duke fell to 30-24 and 15-15.

Miami was aided by two Duke errors and a walk (Jordan Lala), stolen base (Lala) and hit-by-pitch (Adrian Del Castillo) in scoring three runs in the first inning Saturday — all it would need. Raymond Gil’s single drove home Lala and JP Gates’ double drove home Gil.

University of Miami JP Gates (10) hits a double in the second inning as the University of Miami plays its final regular-season game against ACC foe Duke at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field on Saturday, May 18, 2019. AL DIAZ

The Hurricanes, however, were far from flawless Saturday, committing a season-high five errors. The Canes came into the Duke series ranked 212th of 299 Division I baseball teams in fielding percentage.

McMahon won his first game since April 6 after missing a month with a shoulder injury.

“It was a hot one,’’ he said of the game-time temperatures that rose into the high 80s. “That actually kind of helped me stayed loose. The fast ball felt good today.’’

The Hurricanes, ranked 14th by Baseball America, 18th by D1Baseball and 17th in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, came into Saturday with the nation’s No. 15 RPI.

McMahon said the victory will give the Hurricanes “a lot of confidence going into the ACC tournament.”

“We’re looking to win it,’’ he said. “Hopefully we can go do some damage.’’

Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.