CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Despite a lightning delay that suspended play for 90 minutes and prematurely ended ace lefthander Andy Suarez’ afternoon, No. 5 national seed Miami moved within one win of the College World Series Friday with a 3-2 victory over VCU at the Coral Gables Super Regional.
The win was Miami’s first in a super regional since June 9, 2008, when the Hurricanes (48-15) topped Arizona 4-2 and last punched tickets to Omaha, Nebraska.
Miami needs just one more win against the Rams to clinch one of eight CWS berths, and will have its first opportunity Saturday at noon in the Coral Gables Super Regional Championship Game at Mark Light Field.
“Huge win,” head coach Jim Morris said. “We need one more [win]…one more to get back to the ‘Promised Land.’”
After tossing five strong innings and surrendering just one earned run, Suarez left the mound after 83 pitches. But the length of the lightning delay – which began at 1:35 p.m. and lasted until 3:05 p.m. - forced Miami to change pitchers, as Suarez made what could prove to be his last home start with typically successful results in front of 2,853.
Suarez (9-1) said he knew his outing was complete when the lightning delay took as long as it did.
“The lightning delay was supposed to be only 30 minutes, and I would have gone back,” Suarez said. “Since it was too long, I knew I was out.”
The Miami native allowed just three hits, one walk and struck out four. One week after Suarez tossed a brilliant 6.2-inning outing against FIU in the Coral Gables Regional, the redshirt junior continued his postseason excellence with another clutch – albeit brief - performance.
“Andy threw really well…we were concerned about bringing him back at that point,” Morris said. “Our bullpen came in and really did a good job.”
VCU (40-24) struck for a run in the sixth off Miami reliever Cooper Hammond, but might have done more damage if not for a runner’s interference call on Matt Davis that flipped a two-on, no-out situation into just a runner on first base with one out.
Initially runner’s interference was not called on a weak groundball towards Miami second baseman George Iskenderian, but head coach Jim Morris came out to dispute the non-call.
Second base umpire Mike Conlen brought the four umpires together, and the decision was overturned.
"The calling umpire can choose to ask for help on the play if he's not 100-percent sure on the call, and that's why we got together to make sure we got the play correct,” crew chief Billy Van Raaphorst said afterwards.
Morris said he was hopeful the decision would be reversed when he got back to the dugout.
“They’ve got a good club. They did keep battling. A huge call on the interference call – I thought it was definitely the right call, in my opinion,” Morris said. “That was a huge call for us.”
Miami’s offense tagged Rams starter JoJo Howie for three runs in the second inning, more than any team totaled in any of VCU’s four games at the Dallas Regional as the No. 4 seed.
The early runs proved pivotal, as Howie re-entered after the delay and tossed another 2.0+ innings.
“We had a tough time with that guy – he throws a lot of off-speed stuff, and he’s a little funky in his delivery,” Morris said. “He’s a tough guy to hit off of, and you can see why his ERA is what it is.”
A lengthy battle between senior Garrett Kennedy resulted in a one-out walk to open action in the second, and an errant throw from Howie on a comebacker from Brandon Lopez left both runners safe.
A two-out, two-RBI single from sophomore Jacob Heyward one batter later opened the scoring.
“I had a right-field approach,” Heyward said. “He can’t strike me out, he didn’t have anything to get by me. I knew he had off-speed, so I just let the ball travel.”
Junior Ricky Eusebio, who reached base for the 18th straight contest with a leadoff single in the first, followed with another RBI single to make it 3-0 in favor of the Hurricanes.
But Miami managed just one hit after the second inning off Howie.
“He pitched well, he hit his spots, he located the ball very well,” Heyward said. “We had a few hard shots right at people, but those didn’t go our way today.”
Lefthander Michael Mediavilla, named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American earlier in the week, recorded six outs on 27 pitches across the seventh and eighth innings. He struck out three batters and did not allow a baserunner.
Sophomore closer Bryan Garcia then nailed down his 10th save, entering in the ninth and needing just 12 pitches to retire the Rams.
“[VCU] battled all night long,” Morris said. “It was great, Mediavilla coming in the seventh and eighth and getting it done, and Bryan getting that save. [VCU] battled all day. It was a great game to watch.”
Miami can end the Coral Gables Super Regional with a win Saturday at noon over VCU (ESPNU) in the Coral Gables Super Regional Championship Game. If the Rams win, Game 3 will be played Sunday at noon at Mark Light Field.