UM outfielder Willie Abreu talks about the Super Regional
Randy Batista will never forget the feeling.
With the score 8-8 Sunday in a Coral Gables Regional game that already was past the four-hour mark and his Miami Hurricanes coming off an 11-inning, 4 1/2-hour heart-pounder Saturday, Batista stroked a two-out, walk-off single that fell into right-center field.
Despite relinquishing an 8-1 lead to Long Beach State, the third-ranked Canes had rallied to win again. The Hurricanes (48-11) have rebounded from a deficit in 22 victories this season — six of them marked by a walk-off flourish.
Now, they’re one step away from the College World Series as they open their best-of-three-game super-regional series against unranked Boston College (34-20) at 5 p.m. Friday (ESPNU) at Mark Light Field.
“I had butterflies running to first base, goose bumps going all through my body,” said Batista, a little-known 5-11, 170-pound junior-college transfer who has come up strong of late. “Then I got rushed by my teammates and had water thrown on me.
“It was a fun experience.”
Miami, the No. 3 national seed in the NCAA tournament, just keeps getting it done with the guy of the moment, whether it be “Walk off Willie” Abreu with a grand slam against Louisville, Edgar Michelangeli with a bat-flip-following-game-winning-blast in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, or seldom-used reliever Ryan Guerra earning the biggest win of the season Sunday with three strikeouts in a scoreless ninth.
This team has one big-time star in catcher Zack Collins, who was chosen 10th overall by the Chicago White Sox on Thursday in the Major League Baseball Draft, several outstanding fielders and seemingly everyone that can get it done in the clutch.
“They have a little bit of flair for their dramatics late in the games,’’ said Boston College coach Mike Gambino. “It’s what you would expect when you play the University of Miami. They’ve got power, they’ve got speed, they can play defense, they can pitch it, they’ve got a guy in the back end [of the bullpen].
“It’s a team that’s got a chance to win the national championship.”
Jim Morris would love nothing more than to get to the College World Series for the 13th time in his 23 seasons at UM, but the drama he’d rather do without.
“I might have ulcers at the end of the season after 22 come-from-behind wins,’’ Morris said, “but they play hard until the ninth inning. …It’s tougher on the coaches than the players. They’re always relaxed and believe they can get it done.
“It’s actually pretty cool.”
Morris announced that 6-5, 225-pound sophomore Michael Mediavilla (10-1, 3.18 ERA) will pitch in Friday’s opener.
“They’re going to come out with fire and it’s our job to eliminate their momentum,” Mediavilla said of a BC team hitting a combined .265, while UM is averaging .297.
“I’m not worried. Whoever is up, I’m going to keep the mindset, ‘Here’s my best. See if you can hit it.’”
UM is expected to pitch left-handed junior Danny Garcia (9-3, 3.50) in the second game at noon Saturday (ESPNU), with right-handed sophomore Jesse Lepore (9-0, 2.20) likely starting, if necessary, at noon Sunday in a winner-take-all finale.
Lepore, however, was removed after three innings Sunday because of tightness in his throwing shoulder for the second consecutive game. Lepore has been getting treatments since his last outing, and told the Miami Herald on Tuesday that he was hoping to be able to pitch.
Either way, the series could be another thrilling one for fans, as the Eagles’ starting pitcher Friday — 6-2 right-handed junior Justin Dunn (4-1, 1.49) — was drafted 19th overall by the New York Mets on Thursday. Dunn, who has started only seven games after beginning the season as a reliever, has a fastball that hits 98 mph.
“He’s outstanding,’’ Morris said.
The Eagles swept through the Oxford, Mississippi Regional without having to face No. 1 regional seed and sixth-ranked Ole-Miss. This is their first-ever super regional.
“At this stage, with 16 teams remaining,” Morris said, “everybody’s hot and everybody’s got good players, no question. It comes down to little things.”
Miami Herald sportswriter Jordan McPherson contributed to this report.