NOTE: UM already is down 11-4 after home run by Preston Tucker in top of first inning of second game, and eight runs in third inning. Bring on the mercy rule. Note: Canes just scored in bottom of seventh on home run by Chantz Mack and got three more in the eighth.
GAINESVILLE -- With their hopes of staying alive dwindling by the minute, the Miami Hurricanes scored six runs in the final two innings Sunday afternoon to stage a dramatic comeback and defeat Jacksonville 6-3 for a chance to play the Florida Gators.
The Gators (47-16), ranked No. 1 in the nation by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball, have two opportunities to win one game for the Gainesville NCAA regional title. If UM (38-22) should win the 4:45 p.m. Sunday game, then the two teams would play a winner-take-all game at 7 p.m. Monday. The winner of that game would advance to the super regional round of the tournament.
UM closer Daniel Miranda came in to relieve Sam Robinson with two outs and bases loaded for Jacksonville in the bottom of the ninth. It took Miranda one pitch to get Esterlin Perozo to fly out to Dale Carey and end the game.
The game, at McKethan Stadium, lasted 3 hours 48 minutes. It was 98 degrees.
“I want to congratulate Jacksonville on an outstanding year,’’ UM coach Jim Morris said between games. “Very happy to squeeze out a win there, no question. We didn’t do much right in the first seven innings. Thankfully we coaxed some runs in the end. Rony Rodriguez got it going for us, which was big, with the home run. We scratched away a few runs and our pitching got it done in the end.’’
UM scored three of its four runs in the eighth with two outs.
Rodriguez led off the eighth by blasting a home run to left field to cut the deficit to 3-1. Chantz Mack, pinch-hitting for Harold Martinez, watched a third strike for the first out in that inning. Brad Fieger kept hopes alive with a walk, and advanced to second on a single to left by Stephen Perez, at which point Jacksonville changed pitchers.
Chris Kaminski entered the game to face Dale Carey, and got him to hit into a fielder’s choice for the force out at third, leaving Perez on second and Carey on first. Chris Palaez then ripped an RBI-single to right, scoring Perez to make it 3-2. With Carey on third, Kaminski threw a wild pitch to score Carey and tie it up at 3-3.
Kaminski was replaced by right-handed reliever Adam Maxon after walking Shane Rowland. Maxon promptly hit Zeke DeVoss to load the bases, then walked Nathan Melendres to put Canes ahead 4-3.
In the ninth, with two outs after Stephen Perez advanced Brad Fieger with a sacrifice bunt, Carey’s single to left scored Fieger to make it 5-3. Another Palaez RBI scored Carey.
Carey had another phenomenal day in right field, making his second spectacular catch of the tournament by sprinting to his right and diving across the turf for the second out of the eighth.
Miami has beaten the Dolphins 10 consecutive games.
“Tough one to lose,’’ said Jacksonville coach Terry Alexander, whose Dolphins finished their season at 37-24. “We kind of lost control in the eighth. They certainly are a good ballclub. Give them an opening or crack and they are going to come flying through.’’
--SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN