ACC Tourney: Miami Falls To NC State, 5-4

An extra innings loss with a spot in the ACC title game on the line—it’ll be described as a heartbreaker, bit in reality it was all about missed opportunities and hopefully a tough lesson for the Miami Hurricanes as the meat of the postseason descends upon them.

North Carolina State plated the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning for a, 5-4 win in a battle of the Pool B undefeateds, leaving Miami a “meaningless” showdown against Notre Dame on Saturday. Meanwhile, a different type of meaningless game for the victor, who will take on the Virginia Cavaliers, while already punching their ticket to the title game—a showdown with Florida State, most-likely.

For Miami, a 13-game win-streak ended—and maybe a false sense of invincibility that could serve as a reset with the regionals, Super Regionals and a shot at Omaha on the line. The Canes have been on the brink of a national seed the past week or so, with an ACC title sealing the deal—but will two wins and a one-run, extra innings loss be enough?

Time will tell. For now, Miami must regroup quickly, shake off the disappointment and capitalize when opportunities arise.

The Canes had an early two-run lead against the Wolfpack on Friday night, but failed to build on it. A one-out, bases loaded opportunity in the third inning resulted in back-to-back strikeouts and three men on—a theme for the evening as Miami went on to strand 14 runners throughout the course of the evening.

Miami chased North Carolina State starter Cory Wilder after two innings and did some damage to Will Gilbert over the next three, by way of four hits and two runs—but Wilder getting out of that top-of-the-third jam inevitably saved the game.

The Canes did get one in that inning when Zack Collins flied out and forced a play at the play, with Ricky Eusebio safe an giving Miami the two run lead on the sacrifice fly, but unable to add more.

The Wolfpack tied the game in the bottom of the third by way of a two-RBI single from Logan Ratledge, but the Canes got two back in the top of the fourth—starting with an RBI single from Eusebio, scoring Brandon Lopez and an RBI groundout from George Iskenderian that drove home Eusebio.

From that point on the Canes didn’t score again, while the Wolfpack chipped away at the stone—in that manner teams do when left hanging around too long. Miami had their chances to put North Carolina State away, couldn’t do it and paid in the end.

A solo shot from Ryne Willard off Andrew Suarez in the bottom of the sixth cut the lead to, 4-3 and while Suarez let the next two batter reach base, he pitched his way out of the jam forcing a shallow pop-up and short groundout.

Suarez lasted six innings, giving up five hits, three earned runs, walking two and striking out eight—his second-highest output of the season.

All-American Bryan Garcia relieved Suarez, but failed to close—giving up a game-tying run in the ninth, but minimizing the damage and getting out of the inning.

From there, he pitched a scoreless tenth before being replaced by Michael Mediavilla, who gave up the lead-off double to Preston Palmeiro, which stretched into the game-winning run after throwing error, as well as Collins’ unable to reel in a good enough throw for a catch and tag-out at the plate.

Conversely, the Wolfpack’s Tommy DeJuneas mowed down the Hurricanes’ offense, striking out six batters and giving up one lone hit over three innings—another difference making and harsh reminder that when early opportunities arise, Miami simply must capitalize.

While this one certainly stings as it would’ve set the stage for a winner-take-all showdown against Florida State on Sunday—these next few days are where head coach Jim Morris and his staff will earn their money this season.

While Miami certainly wants to have its pitching rotation in order for the regionals next week, the notion that Notre Dame is now a throwaway game with the ACC title out of reach—that’s nonsense. It’s the Canes against a hated rival and newbie to the conference.

It’s also the fastest way to get the disappointment of an extra innings loss and broken win-streak off everyone’s mind; thump the Fighting Irish.

A second straight loss can get into your head and kill all the mojo Miami has been building up over the past few weeks. Friday night’s loss cannot be overthought. It happened. The opportunities were there, not capitalized upon and the end result is a disappointing one—but it’s a small setback in a much bigger journey.

Omaha is the end goal and while an ACC title would’ve been welcomed, if this loss to North Carolina State serves as a wake-up call, then bring it on. Miami hadn’t suffered a loss since back-to-back kicks in the teeth from Florida State a month ago this weekend.

In short, if there was a time to get a loss out of the way, let it be now when the stakes aren’t as high as they’ll be over the next two weekends.

The only real shame here was North Carolina knocking off Notre Dame on Thursday, opposed to the other way around—setting today up as the do-or-die game with the Fighting Irish, making last night’s game the meaningless one … but so it goes in pool play.

Que sera, sera.

Take care of business with this final opportunity in Durham, come home with two wins, regroup, hope for a national seed, deal with whatever hand is dealt and prepare for a double-elimination home stand at Mark Light Field next weekend.