Wins in 19 of 20 games pushes Miami to top of ACC
Miami hasn’t appeared in the College World Series since 2008 — an eternity by the program’s standards — and the Hurricanes looked like a long shot for Omaha this year after a 13-12 start.
With wins in 19 of 20 games, including a weekend sweep at Clemson, coach Jim Morris is feeling a lot better about his team’s chances of being among the last eight teams standing in June.
“I wish it was tournament time today, the way we’re playing,” Morris said Monday.
The Atlantic Coast Conference-leading Hurricanes (32-13, 19-5) have used pitching, defense and timely hitting to crack the top 10 in this week’s major polls.
Miami’s starting rotation of junior left-handers Chris Diaz (7-0), Andrew Suarez (4-2) and Bryan Radziewski (4-2) have combined to allow just 25 earned runs in their last 15 starts. Freshman setup man Cooper Hammond (5-0) has a 2.01 ERA and freshman closer Bryan Garcia is second in the ACC with 13 saves.
The pitchers and defense have combined for a 2.25 ERA and .984 fielding percentage the past 20 games compared with 3.97 and .964 the first 25.
Freshman catcher Zack Collins is batting .408 and driven in or scored 41 of Miami’s 120 runs the last 20 games. Collins, at .306, and fellow freshman Willie Abreu, at .302, are the team’s top two hitters.
“When we were 13-12, people were wondering what went wrong,” Morris said. “I told people our young guys are going to be good, just wait.”
Miami has played in the NCAA tournament 42 straight years but hasn’t made it past regionals since 2010. The Hurricanes’ five-year CWS drought is their longest since they first made it to Omaha in 1974.
“We’ve been there 23 times, 11 times since I’ve been coaching,” said Morris, who’s in his 21st season at Miami. “It’s expected for us to be there. If you don’t get there, then your fans aren’t happy, and neither am I.”
As much as Morris loves Omaha, he knows the locals view his team as a villain. That stems mainly from the Miami football team’s frequent bowl meetings with the Nebraska Cornhuskers through the 1980s and ’90s. Miami and Nebraska, in fact, play football in Lincoln this fall.
“We could be playing against Russia (at the CWS),” Morris said with a laugh, “and they’d still root against us.”
A look around the country:
RED RAIDERS ROLLING: Texas Tech swept Oklahoma for the first time since 2002 and has won 11 of 13. Not bad for the team picked second to last in the Big 12. The Red Raiders (35-13, 11-7 Big 12) outscored the Sooners 37-13 and are two games behind first-place Oklahoma State.
BEAVERS RECORD: Senior left-hander Ben Wetzler became Oregon State’s career leader for wins in a 3-1 victory over Oregon on Friday. Wetzler has 31 wins and broke the record he shared with Ken Noble, who pitched from 1975-78.
RODON’S BAD LUCK: Carlos Rodon’s hard-luck season continued Friday. The North Carolina State ace (3-7) struck out 10 of the first 11 batters he faced against Georgia Tech, finished with 15 strikeouts and lost 1-0 after pitching a complete game.
STREAKING GATORS: A sweep of Missouri extended Florida’s win streak to eight games and gave the Gators a two-game lead over Alabama and Mississippi in the SEC. Alabama hosts the Gators this weekend.
DONE IN BY DIRTBAGS: Long Beach State, aka the “Dirtbags,” handed Cal Poly its first series loss of the season. The Mustangs, No. 1 in one major poll last week, slipped to second place in the Big West behind UC Irvine.
TOUGH ROAD: Siena (16-25, 12-3) leads the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and has won 11 of 13, all of which makes it hard to believe the Saints started 0-17. Because their first six scheduled home games were moved or cancelled because of bad weather or unplayable conditions at Siena Field, the Loudonville, N.Y., school had to play 34 straight road games. Their first true home game was April 18.