The Miami Hurricanes are headed back to Omaha and the College World Series for the first time since the 2008 season. The host of the Coral Gables Super Regional knocked off the visiting Virginia Commonwealth Rams in convincing fashion on Saturday afternoon, 10-3.
While Friday’s showdown was a four-hit affair with Miami never scoring again after three unearned runs in the second inning, the Hurricanes got moving early in game two, chipped away here and there and poured it on late, while defense and pitching took care of business, as well.
Ricky Eusebio roped a double down the left field line on the second pitch of the day and advanced to third by way of a Christopher Barr single. George Iskenderian followed with another single, scoring Eusebio, advancing Barr to third and taking second on the throw.
The meat of Miami’s order went down 1-2-3, with Zack Collins and Garrett Kennedy striking out, while a David Thompson ground out in-between scored Barr.
Thomas Woodrey appeared to be off to a good start on the mound for the Canes—giving up a home run out the gate, but settling down, forcing a ground out, striking out the three hitter and forcing a fly out in the first. From there a walk, single, walk and back-to-back fielder’s choices before a ground out to end the inning.
Prior to, Miami picked up another run in the top of the second. Brandon Lopez flied out to start the inning, but Willie Abreu drew a walk and Jacob Heyward singed through the left side, advancing Abreu to second. Eusebio struck out, but Barr delivered a two-out single to center, scoring Abreu.
The Canes offense went down quickly in the top of the third; two ground outs and a fly out after Collins opened the inning with a walk. In the bottom half of the inning; the unraveling of Woodrey, followed by the most intense three outs of Miami’s post season.
Woodrey opened the bottom of the third by issuing a walk, giving up a double and hitting a better to load the bases. With no outs and his starting pitcher off his game, head coach Jim Morris went to the bullpen and tapped lefty Sam Abrams to get the Hurricanes out of a jam.
Abrams immediately struck out two and worked the final batter into a full count before forcing a fly out; Miami inexplicably getting out of the inning without surrendering any runs or giving back any momentum.
Completely contrasting VCU’s at bat, Miami was all grit in the fourth inning as Heyward played the role of one-man show finding home, while the Hurricanes capitalized on some Rams’ mistakes.
Abreu struck out but reached first on a wild pitch; a freebie that wound up paying dividends. Heyward reached by way of a fielder’s choice, with Abreu thrown out at second—which Heyward immediately stole.
As Eusebio went down swinging, Heyward took third and when a ball got passed the catcher, the Miami outfield rushed home, breaking the tie and giving the hometown team a 4-3 advantage.
The Hurricanes would never look back.
Abrams threw four brilliant innings—giving up one hit, striking out four and earning the win, before yielding to Michael Mediavilla in the top of the seventh. The middle reliever lasted two innings, struck out two and surrendered three hits.
During that span; the explosive seventh inning that put the game away and started the chants of “Omaha” at Mark Light Field.
Iskenderian opened with a double to left field, Collins drew a walk and Thompson signed up the middle, scoring Iskenderian. Kennedy then drew a walk and with the bases loaded, Lopez singled up the middle, bringing home Collins.
Abreu showed patience during his at bat; working the count full before drawing a walk that scored Thompson.
Heyward hit a deep shot to right; a sacrifice fly that scored Kennedy, while Eusebio reached on a fielder’s choice, bringing Lopez home before Barr grounded out to end the inning.
Still, the damage had been done, the Canes led 9-3 and the Rams were looking at an uncharacteristic offensive explosion simply to steal a win and force a game three on Sunday.
VCU managed four hits over the final three at bats, but never truly threatened. In the top of the ninth, another late-game, piling-on solo shot from Abreu flew over the right field wall and in the bottom of the frame, Bryan Garcia locked it down forcing two fly outs and giving up a single that led to a game- and series-ending fielder’s choice for the force out at second.
Miami is the first team of the current field of sixteen to advance to the College World Series. The Hurricanes will open the winner of the Gainesville Super Regional, where the Florida Gators hold a 1-0 lead over the Florida State Seminoles after a 13-5 beat down on Friday night at McKethan Stadium.