Before the all-Miami-Dade County main event on Friday night at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, East Carolina and Columbia gave Miami baseball fans the appetizer before the entrée.
Jumpstarted by a leadoff home run and a five-run sixth inning, Columbia, the No.3 seed in the Coral Gables Regional, upset second-seeded East Carolina 6-3.
The Lions (32-15) advance to face the winner of the Miami-FIU nightcap, while the Pirates (40-21) drop into the losers’ bracket, where they will face the loser between the Hurricanes and Panthers in an elimination game.
Columbia, which went a quick two-and-out in the same regional last season, earned the second NCAA tournament victory in its program’s history.
“The confidence level is real high for our team,” Columbia coach Brett Boretti said. “There’s a belief that we can be successful this weekend.”
Jordan Serena led off the regional game with a homer off the scoreboard beyond the left-field wall that’s usually reserved for UM slugger David Thompson. Columbia took advantage of an East Carolina throwing error in the five-run sixth that could have otherwise ended the threat, taking the lead with two runs on the miscue. It then added two runs on a bloop double by Joe Falcone.
Columbia starter George Thanopoulos (6-5) earned the victory by going 52/3 innings, giving up three runs — two of them earned — on five hits while striking out six.
Adam Cline shut down East Carolina for the final 31/3 innings, striking out three and earning the save. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the sixth and ended the game with a strikeout of Luke Lowery.