University of Miami

‘Get-out-of-a-jam Sam’ Abrams comes to rescue for Canes

Miami fans show their support as the University of Miami hosts VCU at Mark Light Field during the NCAA Super Regional in Coral Gables on Saturday, June 6, 2015.
Miami fans show their support as the University of Miami hosts VCU at Mark Light Field during the NCAA Super Regional in Coral Gables on Saturday, June 6, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Sam Abrams’ low point in his college pitching career came when he was cut from the University of Miami baseball team his sophomore season.

His summit: It happened Saturday afternoon by lifting his team to a College World Series berth, and it would have never transpired without him first overcoming that nadir three years earlier.

The soft-throwing, seldom-used sidearm walk-on reliever would have run out of eligibility last year had he not missed that 2012 season and never been on this team bound for Omaha, Nebraska. All his hardships culminated in him coming into a tied game in the third inning of Game 2 of the Coral Gables Super Regional with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Although early, it appeared Virginia Commonwealth could break the game open with a big inning. It didn’t even get one run across.

With no margin for error, Abrams struck out VCU’s Darian Carpenter, followed that up with a punchout of Jimmy Kerrigan, and then retired James Bunn on a fly out to right on the seventh pitch of the at-bat. Chants of “Sam-my! Sam-my! Sam-my!” roared from the 3,680 fans in attendance.

The surreal moment for Abrams was all taken in by his family in the crowd.

“I was hysterically crying the whole entire time,” said older sister Alexa Abrams, who reminisced on coming to games at Mark Light Field with Sam since the 1999 championship season.

“I keep asking, ‘Did this just happen?’” said his mother, Lisa Goldstein, a Miami alumna herself.

Father Chris Abrams wasn’t nearly as awestruck and never had a doubt.

“Remarkable, but almost commonplace,” he said referencing a similar jam he busted out of against Columbia in the regional.

The game-changing three outs from “Get-out-of-a-jam Sam,” as Goldstein calls him, catapulted the Hurricanes to score a go-ahead run in the fourth, which would prove to be all Abrams would need to earn his second career win.

As if that weren’t enough, Abrams proceeded to pitch three more shutout innings, retiring 12 of the 13 batters he faced and striking out four. The career-high four innings were more than he threw in either the 2013 or 2014 seasons.

Miami coach Jim Morris joked in his postgame remarks, deflecting responsibility on the cutting of Abrams his in 2012 saying, “That was my pitching coach’s decision.”

For Abrams, that time was no laughing matter.

“He put his glove on a top shelf for maybe a month, and I kept saying, ‘What are you going to do? Are you done? Are you going to go somewhere else?’” Goldstein asked. “He called [pitching coach J.D. Arteaga] and asked, ‘Would you give me a recommendation for another team?’ And J.D. said, ‘We’d like to have you back. We’d like to see you try again.’ Sam doesn’t want to put on any uniform but the Canes.”

At the time, Abrams was close to calling it quits on baseball.

“I had already applied to other schools, I was planning on where I was going to live, and I was actually working at an accounting firm,” said Abrams, who now has his master’s degree in accounting and will begin working at Grant Thornton in September. “I just decided I didn’t want to keep doing [accounting] until I got done with college, and it worked out perfectly.”

His loyalty to the team he grew up rooting for was tested not just when he decided to return after getting cut but also coming out of high school. Coming out of Miami Killian, Abrams could have opted for a greater opportunity to pitch more innings elsewhere, but knew he wanted to wear orange and green.

With a fastball that topped out in the low 80s mph, Abrams went to a sidearm delivery going into his senior year of high school because that’s what would get him on the team. He sacrificed to play for the Hurricanes because he wanted to go to Omaha with the hometown team. He took them there in his final home appearance.

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