Streaks are made to be broken, though that’s never any consolation for those on the busted end. The Miami Hurricanes baseball program will miss the postseason for the first time in 44 tries—an NCAA record now set to be surpassed by rival Florida State as the Noles are at 40 years and are gearing up to host the Tallahassee Regional after winning the ACC Tournament this past weekend.
While this current crop of players was obviously crushed, the reaction outside of the program is mixed. Some choose to celebrate the streak and a start-a-new-one attitude, while others are full-conspiracy-theory-mode, blaming the committee for shunning Miami with a desire to end the streak.
Truth be told, there’s only one culprit here and it’s a team and staff that underachieved their way through the 2017 season—only showing a pulse when it was too little, too late.
In the forefront of most Canes-supporting minds right now—recent success as Miami hung tough this past week in Louisville and closed the regular season on a four-game win-streak.
Down 4-1 early to Georgia Tech as the ACC Tournament got underway, the Canes took a 5-4 lead before the Yellow Jackets tied it up in the fifth. Seven innings of scoreless baseball ensued before Miami got one in the bottom of the 13th and prevailed. Days later, a hard-fought effort again third-seeded Wake Forest—down 2-0 after three, playing solid defense against the Demon Deacons before taking a 3-2 lead in the eighth and tacking on two more in the ninth for a 5-2 upset.
Normalcy resumed over the weekend when North Carolina routed Miami, 12-4 in the semifinals—despite the Canes jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, going ice cold from there.
AWFUL START FOR CANES FOLLOWED BY RESPECTABLE FINISH
Prior to the recent conference tournament, Miami ended the regular season with three straight wins over Virginia Tech—the Canes lone ACC sweep of the year, over a Hokies squad not good enough to even crack the ACC final dozen in Louisville last week.
The six-game win-streak proved a reminder that Miami had more in the tank than it’d shown in months past, but the collective body of work certainly wasn’t NCAA Tournament-worthy. A quick review of all things Hurricanes baseball since January underscores the committee lumping Miami in that awful “first four out” bracket.
The first red-flag moment came on Sunday February 19th, when a sweep of perennial punching bag Rutgers appeared to be on deck. The Canes topped the Scarlet Knights, 9-2 in the opener and 3-0 on Saturday afternoon before a disastrous 17-6 loss on Sunday.
Miami oft opens the regular season with Rutgers and had won 15 in a row over their former Big East foe. The last loss; an extra innings one-run setback in 2011.
While this was only game three of a new season and easy to chalk up as an aberration at the time—despite Rutgers racking up 16 hits while the Canes notched six errors on the day and stranded 13 on base—it’s what soon followed that showed something was off in Coral Gables.
Florida swept Miami in Gainesville the following weekend—which sadly has become the new norm. Dating back to the 2009 post-season, the Canes dropped 14-of-15 to the Gators over the coming years and after this season’s sweep, fell to 6-26 against UF since.
In short, Florida beating Miami’s ass is nothing new—so a 1-0 loss on Friday and 2-0 setback on Saturday were almost comforting, in comparison to the 25-5 shellacking the Gators put in the Canes in the 2015 College World Series over two games.
Florida closed with a 6-2 win on Sunday for the sweep and Miami quietly slipped to 2-4 after starting the season ranked No. 17 in the nation.
The Canes picked up a mid-week win over Florida Atlantic before hosting Dartmouth days later and dropping the series courtesy of a 1-0 loss on Friday and 5-0 drubbing on Sunday. Sandwiched in-between, a 3-2 victory in Saturday made possible by second ninth inning balk by the Big Green’s closer.
Two days later, Florida International crushed Miami, 12-1 in a make-up game at Mark Light that was postponed between the Rutgers and Florida series. The next night, the Golden Panthers took out the Canes in their ‘hood, 3-2.
By the first week of March, Miami sat at 4-8 and unranked.
A series victory over Georgia Tech at The Light ensued—the Canes scoring 32 runs over three games. Miami follows up with two mid-week wins over Maine, but the celebration was short-lived as the Canes were humbled on a road trip to Raleigh days later. North Carolina State took the first two of the seasons, before Miami got one back on Sunday for pride-sake.
A mid-week win over Florida Atlantic followed, before deja vu all over again—another trek to the Tar Heel state. This time it was two losses to North Carolina before getting one on Sunday. The 7-5 run had Miami now sitting at 11-13 through late March.
Florida Gulf Coast shut Miami out at home on Wednesday March 29th, before Wake Forest came south and won a series. The Demon Deacons eked out a 2-1 win on Friday and while the Canes responded with a bounce-back, 5-1 win on Saturday—the series was decided by way of a 9-0 shutout courtesy of the road team.
Miami beat St. Thomas at home mid-week in early April before taking a home series from Duke, but fell to Florida Gulf Coast the following Wednesday and dropped a road opened at Pittsburgh, 10-3 before bouncing back to win the series.
A week later Florida State arrived and split with Miami as Sunday’s rubber match was cancelled due to inclement weather. Still, the theme remained the same—the Canes dropping winnable games in uncharacteristic fashion on a weekly basis.
Florida International. Boston College. Bethune-Cookman. Central Florida. Miami went 5-4 against those four when rumblings about missing the post-season were becoming a reality, while the midweek record over the course of the season was 9-6.
Virginia waxed Miami 13-6 and 7-4 in Charlottesville early May after the Canes won the opener, 5-1. From there, the six-game win-streak to close the season before Saturday’s loss to North Carolina, but the damage had already been done—week in and week out all season.
MODERN-DAY MIAMI NOT BUILT POST-SEASON STRONG
The Canes lost some big-name players and talent between last season’s College World Series speedy exit and this year’s opener against the Scarlet Knights. Miami simply wasn’t the same offensively without leaders and clutch veterans like Willie Abreu, Jason Heyward and Zach Collins on the roster. That said, this is “The U” and turnover of former greats should only lead to the uncovering of new talent waiting for their turn to shine. That never happened this season.
At no point this season when watching the Hurricanes, did they ever pass the eye test—which is all right barring a squad overachieves, prove clutch and gets it done.
To not look the part of a quality team and then to confirm it with average and inconsistent play—makes you wonder why and how Miami has fallen off as it has. Even two recent, consecutive treks to Omaha had the Canes looking mortal—crushed by Florida in embarrassing fashion in 2015, while getting worked by Arizona and UC Santa Barbara last June.
Three treks to the College World Series for Miami over the past decade and 2-6 record dating back to the opening loss to Georgia in 2008 with the Canes as the top seed. Prior to that, 17 appearances in Omaha and four rings dating back to the first title in 1982—and five CWS experiences before that, bringing the grand total to 22.
All of that chatter brings a general knee-jerk reaction that the Miami fan base is spoiled—and while yes, a part of that rings true—high standards have nothing to do with any frustration stemming from sub-par regular season play, coupled with post-season inefficiency as of late.
Miami lost it’s mojo somewhere over the past decade—that 2008 squad representing the last time the Canes were truly a power that looked and played the part. The wheels came off in the ninth inning against Georgia in the opener at the College World Series for the top-seeded Canes and from there, a six-year drought regarding Omaha—the program’s worst stretch since it’s inaugural invite back in 1974.
The Canes topped the 50-win mark each of the past two seasons—as it did in 2008, winning 53 games—but the attitude, style of player and post-season energy proved vastly different.
OUT WITH THE OLD; GET IN WITH THE NEW
Long time head coach Jim Morris was at the helm for Miami’s past 24 post-season runs. Prior to that, Morris led Georgia Tech to nine consecutive post-seasons—meaning a 33-year streak has personally been broken for the long-time Canes coach at the tail end of his storied career. No. 3 will return in 2018 for one final go-around before Miami hands the keys to coach-in-waiting Gino DiMare—the DiMare hiring marking only the third head coach in Canes’ baseball history dating back to the 1963 season when Ron Fraser took over.
Uncharted waters for UM, but based on a 44-year old streak being broken today, some fresh blood at the top—even in the form of a familiar face—seems to be necessary. This current era of Miami baseball has run its course and even “better” years as of late, still haven’t yielded proper results.
Five years back Miami hosted the 2012 Coral Gables regional and dropped two straight as a top seed; falling to Stony Brook and Missouri State by a combined score of 22-4. At the time, it felt like rock bottom for this proud program in the modern era.
A season later, the Canes were run out of the Louisville Regional in three games. Come 2014, another face-plant as host—dropping two to second-seeded Texas Tech—yet weeks later, Morris was rewarded with the equivalent of a “lifetime achievement” contract extension taking him through 2018, instead of calling it a day after 2015, as originally planned.
Miami should be two years into the DiMare era and rebuilding under a new leader, yet is instead limping to the finish with Morris—a legacy now stained with the end of a one-time automatic post-season run.
Cheers to Miami baseball for an unprecedented run the past four-plus decades and a tip of the hat to every player and coach who participated in the most-impressive streak the game has ever seen.
That said, 2019 and a new start can’t get to Coral Gables fast enough. Whatever we just witnessed this season—couldn’t have felt any less like Hurricanes baseball as we’ve known it the past 44 years.