Embarking on their 42nd-consecutive postseason appearance - the longest active streak in the NCAA - Miami (41-17) came out winners in their first playoff matchup versus Bethune-Cookman (26-31) Friday night in a walk-off thriller, 1-0. It was a pitching battle for the majority of the contest with both team's starters lastingwell into the late innings without surrendering a run. But in late heroic fashion, the Canes continued to find new ways to win.
This time, it took a late rally score for Miami to string their first win of the NCAA Tournament following a walk-off wild pitch. With 1B David Thompson on third base and SS Brandon Lopez at first, a changeup offering from Wildcats reliever Scott Garner missed low and passed behind home plate towards the backstop. "Davey Baseball" Thompson sprinted home - and once again - slid in safe, beating catcher Zach Olszewski's throw to Garner, stirring a crowd of 1,843 into jubilation.
"It was awesome. It's just a blessing to be back out on the field. You know I didn't play that well today but I found a way to get on base," said Thompson, who reached base on a hit by pitch and advanced to third off a mistimed throw by Wildcats rightfielder Josh Johnson. "[Andrew Suarez] pitched a heck of a game and we just found a way to win."
Suarez, who went the distance, completing nine shutout innings, sealed a long-drawn out win by giving the No.1 seed of the Coral Gables Regional the opportunity to pull out the gamewinner. The redshirt sophomore, now 6-3 in the season, tied a career high with 10 strikeouts, while only amassing just 94 pitches. Miami coach, Jim Morris, stated in the postgame press conference that he would have sent out Suarez for the tenth had the game extended into extra innings.
"I felt like all of my pitches were working and my command got better as the game went on," Suarez said. "I was leaving some down the plate and they were getting some hits and then after that I just worked on keeping the ball low."
For the Hurricanes, they had a tall task in order with Bethune-Cookman's ace Montana Durapau on the mound. Durapau, who finished the regular season with an 11-1 record and 1.71 ERA (15 starts), had only allowed opponents to hit .181 against him. In his prior two starts matched against the Canes, he's come out victorious in each of the past two seasons - going eight innings deep on March 11 this year in a 7-3 victory. However, his third time around wouldn't be as favorable even though he did showcase another brilliant outing.
Durapau went seven innings strong, allowing only 3 hits to go with 5 K's, but surrendered a season-high four walks and fell behind on many hitters which upped his pitch count to 109 pitches before he was pulled out. In for relief was Garner, who the inning prior to the walk-off wild pitch struck out the side in the eight, finished with 1.2 innings, 1 hit and 3 K's on one unearned run.
Friday's win marks Miami's first complete-game postseason shutout since David Gutierrez tossed one in a win over Jacksonville on May 31, 2009. Suarez had tossed nine innings in three games this regular season heading into Friday night: March 15 against Georgia Tech, April 12 against Pittsburgh and April 26 against Clemson. However, he exited all three of those games with no-decisions, despite allowing a combined total of three runs in those 27.0 innings. Miami is also now a combined 12-4 in one-run games this season.
The Canes will face the Texas Tech Red Raiders (40-18) tomorrow night at 7 pm. All-American Chris Diaz (9-0) is expected to get the start for the Canes. Freshman Willie Abreu will get a rest to heal up a sore hamstring.
Right before them, No.3 seeded Colombia and No.4 seeded Bethune-Cookman will compete in an elimination game at 2pm. Colombia lost 3-2 to Texas Tech in Game 1 of the Coral Gables Regional earlier today. All games will continue to be streamed on ESPN3.