Posting a 27-3 regular season record since late March, Miami won the regular season ACC crown and the top seed in this week’s tournament.
Two games in, the Canes are 0-2 and having lost three of its past four—with zero shot at a conference crown and what is now a consolation game against Duke on Saturday.
In Miami’s defense, it ran into some very solid pitching the past two games, while its usually-solid rotation fell apart.
Georgia Tech threw Josh Heddinger on Wednesday, who went seven-plus innings, giving up seven hits and striking out five. Dusty Isaacs closed, holding Miami to two hits over two-plus innings.
The Hurricanes stranded six runners on base, strung together nine nits and had a throwing error that helped fuel a two-run seventh inning by the Yellow Jackets.
Miami got on the board in the third when Dale Carey fired a solo shot to left field and tacked on two more in the bottom of the fifth when Georgia Tech tied it up in the top.
Carey singled to right, promptly stole second and was driven home by a Tyler Palmer single. Palmer advanced to second on the throw home and was driven home a batter later when Zack Collins singled to right. David Thompson filed out to right, stranding Collins, but the Canes picked up two—all the damage being done with two outs.
From that point on, the Hurricanes’ offense went into a hole, while the pitching unraveled—giving up five runs over the final three innings.
Andrew Suarez was effective early for Miami and lasted just over seven innings, giving up nine hits and three earned runs before Cooper Hammond stopped the bleeding and closed out the seventh.
Hammond went on to give up three hits and two runs, but fell apart in the eighth—giving up three big hits with two outs on the board.
Up 5-3 going into the ninth, Georgia Tech tacked on an insurance run, while Miami went down 1-2-3, with two groundouts and a strikeout.
The men-left-on-base theme continued against Clemson on Thursday, stranding 11 runners in a low-scoring affair.
Chris Diaz—who suffered a pre-game injury—got off to a slow start, but settled down and kept the Tigers at bay for four-plus innings. A throwing error cost Miami a run in the third, but Diaz held Clemson to five hits and one run, while striking out two.
Hammond lasted just over an inning in middle relief, giving up a solo shot to Jon McGibbon in the bottom of the sixth. Thomas Woodrey went for two innings, surrendering two hits and striking out two, while Brian Garcia failed in his task as the closer.
Knotted at two apiece entering the ninth, Miami was in business when Carey roped a one-out single to left and advanced to third on a throwing error during a pick-off attempt. Palmer swung at the first pitch, barely made contact and was thrown out at first.
Collins drew a walk, but with runners at the corners, Thompson flied out and the Canes stranded two more—which immediately proved deflating.
Garcia walked lead-off man Tyler Slaton and Tyler Kreiger filed out to left, but Steven Duggar singled to right on Garcia’s second offering, pushing Slaton to second. One pitch later Steve Wilkerson singled to right, driving Slaton home and giving Clemson the walk-off win.
While a conference title isn’t necessarily a difference-maker in regards to the regionals, Miami certainly blew a golden opportunity as it was hoping to play its way into hosting a Super Regional, which is no longer an option.
Furthermore, the Hurricanes dropped two very winnable games to teams it could’ve—and should’ve—topped. Georgia Tech was a nine-seed in this tournament, while Clemson was the five.
Once on a roll this season, the Canes swept the Tigers on the road late April. Prior to going on the 27-3 tear, Miami lost the series to Georgia Tech—also on the road—taking game one, 10-8, losing game two, 13-7 and dropping the rubber match, 3-2 in extra innings.
Insult to injury came in the form of how both conference foes have performed thus far and since in Greensboro. Georgia Tech topped eight-seeded Wake Forest, 5-3 on Thursday but was blanked by fourth-seeded Duke, 4-0 one day after topping Miami.
Clemson dropped Duke on Wednesday, 5-3 and a day after stealing one from Miami, was shut out by Georgia Tech, 3-0.
Miami takes on Duke tomorrow morning in what is now a meaningless game (for the Hurricanes), though the Blue Devils will represent Pool A on Sunday with a win. Maryland is in the driver’s seat in Pool B, unless North Carolina knocks off Virginia tonight and then tops the Terps tomorrow afternoon.
Sure, there’s consolation in a nine-seed taking on either six or seven for the conference tourney title—fueling the case that this event doesn’t matter—but based on momentum, trying to host a Super and Miami recent late-season failures, it’s hard to give the Hurricanes a pass for the degree to which this program fell apart in Greensboro.
For head coach Jim Morris and this staff, need to hope these kids have a short memory and can regroup next weekend at The Light when the real-deal postseason gets underway.