University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes baseball starts new NCAA streak. But their destination is questionable

UM baseball’s watch party, Canes will play Central Michigan in NCAA Tournament

University of Miami baseball's watch party as they hear they will play Central Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, May 27, 2019.
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University of Miami baseball's watch party as they hear they will play Central Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, May 27, 2019.

Time to start a new streak on the road to Omaha.

The University of Miami, under first-year head coach Gino DiMare, officially returned to the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament on Monday when it learned it will travel to Starkville, Mississippi for the first round of the 64-team tourney.

The Hurricanes (39-18), seeded No. 2 in the Starkville Regional, will face No. 3 seed Central Michigan (46-12) of the Mid-American Conference in their regional opener at 8 p.m. Friday. Also in Miami’s regional: No. 1 regional seed and No. 6 national seed host Mississippi State (46-13) of the Southeastern Conference and No. 4 seed Southern (32-22), which qualified because it won the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

This will be the Hurricanes’ first NCAA tournament since their 44-year national-record streak ended in 2017 when they missed the cut. They also were left out of the tournament last season.

“For you all to understand,’’ DiMare said, after being asked about not showing emotion when UM’s destination was announced on a television in the Canes’ locker room during the live ESPNU telecast, “the goal here is to win a national championship. I’m not trying to get ahead of myself because of where we’ve been the last few years. Reality is we weren’t very good the last couple years. But I can’t stress enough how many times from the beginning, from the first day in August, we were talking about winning a national championship. That’s what I grew up on in this program, watching it and of course playing in it and coaching for it for so long.

“And I don’t want to wait. I’m not very patient. I don’t think a lot of people here are [patient] with our program either — fans, players, everybody included. We want to get there now. “

“...Yes, we’re happy we’re in the regionals, absolutely. But you know what? For so many years this was just a foregone conclusion. We’re thinking about finding a way to win a championship. That’s what I want our players to think about.’’

Should the Hurricanes, winners of national titles in 1982, 1985, 1999 and 2001, win their regional, they would advance to a best-of-three-game series beginning June 7 against the winner of the Stanford (California) Regional in the second round of the tournament, called the super regionals. The teams in that regional are No. 1 regional seed Stanford (41-11), No. 2 UC Santa Barbara, No. 3 Fresno State and No. 4 Sacramento State.

The Canes would likely have to travel to Stanford and a three-hour time difference if they win their regional and No. 11 tournament seed Stanford wins its regional. However, if Stanford is eliminated this weekend, then Miami could potentially host a super regional in Coral Gables.

Although the Hurricanes jumped from their seats and cheered when their tournament field was shown, UM being placed in a regional hosted by Mississipi State, which has the nation’s No. 4 RPI but is the tournament’s No. 6 overall seed, is a head-scratching surprise to say the least. The Canes just missed hosting their own regional after finishing the season with the No. 17 RPI. A team that highly rated normally would not be sent to a regional hosted by a national seed.

That fact obviously did not get past DiMare.

“You would think we’re just outside the top 16 since we were on the bubble,’’ DiMare said. “So you would think we [would be] playing one of the teams between 9 and 16 -- you would think. So, you’d have to ask the [NCAA baseballl] committee that one. That’s another interesting one. I’ll leave that up to everybody else to figure out.

“That doesn’t make sense to me. ...Where a team like Duke [31-25], which finished well below us in our [Atlantic Coast] conference, they’re going and playing at [No. 15 seed] West Virginia, which is not a top-eight team. ...It is what it is.’’

The eight teams that emerge champions in the super regionals advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, which runs from June 15-25/26. UM has advanced to the College World Series 25 times, including its last trip in 2016.

The last time the Canes traveled to a regional was in 2013, when they were eliminated in Louisville.

DiMare said he hopefully will have an idea of a pitching rotation by late tomorrow.

The Florida Gators (33-24) are the No. 3 seed in the Lubbock (Texas) Regional, hosted by No. 8 national seed Texas Tech. UF faces Dallas Baptist to open the tournament.

The Florida State Seminoles (36-21) are the No. 3 seed in the Athens (Georgia) Regional, hosted by No. 3 UGA. FSU starts the tournament against the FAU Owls on Friday at noon.

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.