The University of Miami baseball team’s chances of extending its NCAA-record, 44-year postseason streak look considerably better after a sterling comeback in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on Friday in Louisville, Kentucky.
UM beat Wake Forest 5-2 in an ACC quarterfinal, pushing the Hurricanes’ winning streak to six and increasing its odds of receiving a berth in the 64-team tournament when bids are announced on Monday.
The Hurricanes (31-26) would earn an automatic bid if they win two more games to capture the ACC tournament championship. Miami will play the winner of Friday night’s North Carolina-North Carolina State game in an ACC tournament semifinal at 4 p.m. Saturday in Louisville.
More significantly, the Hurricanes appear to be in decent shape to extend a postseason streak that UM says is the longest in Division I college sports history for any sport.
The Hurricanes, who have won seven of their past nine, have moved into Baseball America’s projected field of 64.
“Our guys kept battling and battling and beat a really good closer [Griffin Roberts],” UM coach Jim Morris said. “He’s had a great year. But our guys played well. Our pitchers threw well. We played good defense. We got a lot of big hits and a lot of really good things as a team. It’s a team effort.”
Miami entered the tournament likely needing at least two wins to feel good about its chances of securing an at-large bid. UM now has those two wins, against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.
The Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit by scoring five runs in the final three innings. Edgar Michelangeli’s home run in the seventh left Wake Forest ahead 2-1.
UM then surged ahead in the eighth when a Romy Gonzalez double drove in Johnny Ruiz and a wild pitch scored Gonzalez, giving the Canes a 3-2 advantage.
Miami scored two insurance runs in the ninth on a Ruiz double, scoring Carl Chester and Michael Burns.
“We knew the game was within reach, and we just needed to execute,” Ruiz said. “We had a couple chances with runners on, and we just didn’t get that big hit. But, you know, eventually if you put yourself in those situations over and over again, somebody is going to come through.”
Andrew Cabezas earned the save, working out of a bases-loaded predicament in the ninth. Nick DiPonzio lined a hard shot to the right side, but the ball glanced off Demon Deacon baserunner Keegan Maronpot for the final out of the game.
Greg Veliz — the second of four Miami pitchers — earned the win despite walking seven batters in 2 1/3 innings. Veliz (6-4) struck out four and did not allow a hit. The Demon Deacons left 16 runners on base.
Wake Forest’s Stuart Fairchild opened the scoring in the bottom of the first with a two-out solo home run that nearly cleared the left-field bleachers and was estimated at 402 feet. Fairchild struck again in the third inning with another two-out home run to right field.
But aside from Fairchild’s homers, Miami starter Jeb Bargfeldt was effective, limiting Wake to those two runs in five innings.
Meanwhile, Wake’s Parker Dunshee held UM to four hits and one run in seven innings before the Hurricanes stormed ahead against Roberts.
And now UM can at least feel better about its chances of making the NCAA tournament for the 45th consecutive time.
“We’re just taking it a day at a time at this point,” Gonzalez said. “The second half has been completely different from the first half, and we’re just worried about the next game.”