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June 1, 2012Stay connected to the Canes. Sign-up for CaneSport.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone and register with CaneSport on FACEBOOK and TWITTER! Don't miss the all-new digital CANESPORT MAGAZINE - - covering every game inside and out.
Everything seemed out of whack for the University of Miami's up, down and sideways baseball season Friday night.
The usual hoopla for an NCAA Regional was missing. There was a smaller than normal crowd for a post-season game, perhaps because of the late afternoon thunderstorm, or the Miami Heat being on television in the NBA playoffs at Boston. Maybe because most people thought the Hurricanes would be a number two seed at a Regional on the road, or maybe because the opponent was Stony Brook.
Even the fans who holler "rag arm!" weren't around. Or were too embarrassed to heckle.
Whatever the case, the Hurricanes find themselves one game from elimination as they lost 10-2 to a team that won its 21st game in the last 22, improved its record to 47-11 and posted arguably the biggest victory in the school's history.
"I probably shouldn't say this, but it's the worst big game that the University of Miami has played in my entire coaching career at the University of Miami in all phases of the game," coach Jim Morris said. "I'm very sad to watch the way we played the game tonight. Stony Brook played outstanding and we played just the opposite."
The Canes (36-22) will play Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. against Missouri State, a 2-1 loser to Central Florida. Lefthander Steven Ewing will start for the Hurricanes.
Stony Brook and UCF will play at 7 p.m.
Haven't heard of the Stony Brook Seawolves of Oyster Bay, N.Y.? The voters in the national polls have. They're ranked 25th by Baseball America, two spots behind the Hurricanes. And they're 29th in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers ranking, which has Miami 22nd.
They're the champions of the America East Conference, which features teams like Binghamton and Maine. And they play excellent fundamental baseball under coach Matt Senk, who is in his 22nd season at one of the top programs in the Northeast.
The Hurricanes have won 18 consecutive NCAA Regionals and five consecutive Super Regionals at home, going back to the days of coach Ron Fraser. They've never lost a post-season tournament at home under Morris.
The last time they were eliminated from a Regional at home was in 1990 when The Citadel won two games against the Hurricanes in a four-team tournament that included North Carolina State. The only other time they've lost a Regional at home was in 1977 to Clemson.
Even the surprise start of Miami's leading hitter Peter O'Brien didn't help. He was expected to miss the game because of his sore left wrist but played the whole game at first base and hit the ball hard his first three at bats.
Often the Hurricanes will not open a home Regional with usual Friday night starter. But they did this time and senior left-hander Eric Erickson worked the first five innings, allowing six hits, four runs (two earned), while walking none and striking out two.
Lightning and rain delayed the ninth inning of the opening game between Central Florida and Missouri State, forcing the Hurricanes' game to start an hour late at 8 p.m.
Against a Miami defense that has been erratic this season, Stony Brook put pressure on the Hurricanes right away and it paid dividends. Leadoff batter Travis Jankowski, hitting .411, hit a perfect bunt toward second baseman Stephen Perez and beat the throw that sailed past first baseman Peter O'Brien. But Perez was caught in a run down trying to advance on the play.
In the second, Stony Brook's Maxx Tissenbaum hit a routine fly to left but left fielder Rony Rodriguez apparently lost the ball in the lights and it fell for a double. Tanner Nivins bunted and Erickson threw wild to first and allowed Tissenbaum to score.
The bunt brigade continued as Kevin Krause tapped a roller toward Erickson, who again threw wild to first, enabling Nivins to score for a 2-0 lead. The next batter, Steven Goldstein, tried to keep the pressure on but his bunt was popped straight up and caught by catcher Garrett Kennedy.
"It was disappointing for us," said Erickson. "A lot of things went wrong and it just seemed like it was contagious. It was a really, really disappointing game for us overall. There's no excuse for that. We practice that and those should be executed plays."
The Hurricanes struck back in the fourth inning to tie the game. Dale Cary walked, Chantz Mack moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt, then Fieger slammed his fourth home run of the season. It was just the second home run given up this season by righthander Tyler Johnson, who came into the game with a 9-1 record and 1.78 earned run average.
But the Canes left runners on first and third later in the inning after Rodriguez and O'Brien singled. Michael Broad popped to first and Garrett Kennedy lined to center.
"With a runner on third and one out you have to score if you want to win big games like this," said Fieger. "We didn't score that run and it could have helped us a lot. It could have built momentum but we didn't do it and the tide turned."
Did Miami underestimate Stony Brook?
"No, we know every team that gets to the post season is a good team, I think we just didn't show up tonight and we're supposed to for the postseason," said Fieger.
Stony Brook regained a two-run lead in the fifth. Erickson hit Kevin Courtney and Jankowski singled to left. A sacrifice bunt by Pat Cantwell moved the runner up, then Erickson struck out William Carmona. Tissenbaum followed with a bloop single over the head of second baseman Perez to drive in two runs.
"I felt great, I made good pitches tonight," said Erickson. "I was jamming everybody and they were hitting off the end of the bat. It's just one of those nights."
Asked about his coach's comments, Erickson said, "I totally agree with everything coach Morris says."
The Canes dug themselves into a deeper hole in the seventh inning. After one out, Cantwell, Carmona and Tisselbaum hit consecutive singles off Christian Diaz, who came in for Erickson in the sixth. Tisselbaum's hit drove in Cantwell. Adam Sargent then replaced Diaz.
Nivins smashed a hard grounder up the middle that was stabbed by Sargent, who pivoted and threw the ball into center field on what could have been the start of an inning-ending double play. That scored Carmona and gave Stony Brook a 6-2 lead.
In the eighth, Carmona's three-run homer off Vince Kossak over the rightfield wall fattened the margin to 9-2. It was Carmona's 11th home run of the season.
The Hurricanes left runners on base in the sixth and seventh innings. O'Brien doubled to left center after two outs in the sixth but Michael Broad took a called third strike. In the seventh Jarred Maderos singled after one out, and that marked the end of a good performance by Johnson, who allowed eight hits and two runs while walking three and striking out three.
Reliever James Campbell struck out Perez and got Carey to pop to second.
"Stony Brook came to play and did everything right and we did everything wrong," said Erickson. "We didn't underestimate them we just came out flat tonight."
He added, "It's a simple fact that we can not quit. The season's not over tomorrow and play the game with our entire hearts. Whatever happens happens, we have to go down fighting."
The Hurricanes a week ago lost in the opening game of the ACC Championships but came back to knock off highly ranked North Carolina and reach the championship game, which they lost to upstart Georgia Tech. They face another challenge this weekend in a tournament in which UCF is the highest ranked team, No. 15 in the Baseball Writers' poll and No. 20 in the Baseball America poll.
"We have to come to play and make a comeback," said Fieger.
Asked about the base running and fielding mistakes, Morris replied, "I made my statement to open the press conference. Every phase of the game we struggled."
Asked what he told his team after the game, Morris said, "I'm very disappointed. Basically what I said to you guys."
Did he sense anything unusual before the game?
"Not really," Morris said. "Those bunts are fundamental defense that we didn't do, and Fieger hits a two-run homer to get momentum going again, and we go out and hit the first guy, the ninth-place hitter, a breaking ball or changeup to the helmet, which is inexcusable. You get momentum going and it immediately goes the other way. From there it went downhill."