Favored Miami no longer has shot
By: By ERIC OLSON, AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — With a potent lineup and deep pitching staff, Miami was largely considered the most complete team in college baseball.
None of that matters now.
The top-seeded Hurricanes are heading home without a national championship after Stanford eliminated them from the College World Series with an 8-3 victory Wednesday night.
“It’s a shock to everybody,” Cardinal coach Mark Marquess said. “It’s not a shock to the coaches.”
Many coaches have said all week that it isn’t necessarily the best team that wins it all in Omaha. The Hurricanes were 18-5 in the regular season against teams that made the NCAA tournament. At the CWS, they went 1-2.
It’s all about who gets hot, coaches say, and the Hurricanes were not.
“They outplayed us tonight,” Miami coach Jim Morris said of Stanford. “They outplayed us, I guess, in every phase of the game: in pitching, defense and hitting.”
North Carolina and Rice made it to the CWS for the third straight year, and familiar names from past years such as LSU, Florida State and Georgia joined Miami and Stanford here, too.
But surprising Fresno State has crashed the party and is one win from playing in the championship series.
“They weren’t even ranked,” Marquess said. “They’re here.”
Marquess promises there will be more teams like Fresno State in the future.
“And that’s parity. It’s out there and it’s not going to change,” he said. “It’s not going to go away. That’s healthy for our game, that’s healthy for Omaha, but it’s not healthy for coaches who coach a program where the expectation level of their fans is that they’re going to get here every year. It’s not going to happen.”
Miami (53-11), ranked No. 1 for most of the season, failed to join the 1999 squad as the only No. 1 national seed to win the College World Series. The Hurricanes have been eliminated in three games in each of their four CWS appearances since 2003.
“I don’t think there is big advantage to be the first seed or eighth seed,” Morris said. “The bottom line is that every team has played well to get here.”
LSU (49-18-1) meets North Carolina (52-13) in an elimination game today in Bracket 2. The winner meets Fresno State (44-29), needing two wins to keep the Bulldogs out of next week’s best-of-three finals.
The pitching tandem of Danny Sandbrink and Erik Davis and a Stanford offense that produced timely hits were too much Wednesday night for a Miami club that played nowhere near midseason form late in the year.
The Cardinal (41-23-2) now must beat Georgia (43-23-1) twice to win Bracket 1 and reach the finals for the first time since 2003.
Sean Ratliff’s homer off Enrique Garcia (7-3) and Cord Phelps’ triple in a four-run fifth inning were the key blows for the Cardinal, but it was the steady efforts of Sandbrink, a freshman making his sixth start, and Davis, a down-on-his-luck senior, that kept Miami from scoring more than one run in any inning.
“We knew they were going to score some runs,” Davis said, “but if we could keep them out of the big inning, we were able to keep momentum on our side.”
The Hurricanes blew a lead in the ninth and lost 7-4 to Georgia in their Omaha opener. They bounced back to beat Florida State 7-5, but closer Carlos Gutierrez was shaky for the second straight game and the Seminoles scored three runs in the ninth to make things interesting.
Morris, who has brought 10 of his 14 Miami teams to the CWS, said the Hurricanes simply weren’t at their best when they needed to be.
“In the middle of the season, I felt like we could beat anybody at any time because we had all the cylinders clicking,” he said. “We didn’t get it going out here. No question.”
Phelps had three of Stanford’s 11 hits and drove in two runs. He had a single and double to go with his triple and missed out on hitting for the cycle when he flied out in the seventh inning. No one has hit for the cycle at the CWS since Minnesota’s Jerry Kindall in 1956.
“Obviously, I knew in the back of my mind I was a home run away from a cycle,” said Phelps, who has 13 homers. “When you think about something like that, it never happens.”
After Miami’s first two batters reached base on singles, Sandbrink and Davis combined to hold Miami without a hit until the sixth inning. Sandbrink allowed two hits and one run in four innings.
Davis (8-3), sent to the bullpen for the CWS after struggling as a starter late in the year, shut down a Hurricanes threat when he entered in the fifth. After Sandbrink issued a leadoff walk, Davis walked his first batter to put two runners on.
But he got Jemile Weeks to foul out trying to bunt and struck out Miami’s top sluggers, Yonder Alonso and Mark Sobolewski.
For Alonso, the No. 7 pick in the draft by Cincinnati, it marked the first time since March 2007 that he struck out three times in a game.
“I just felt like we were trying to do too much, especially myself,” Alonso said. “The guy had a good changeup and fastball and he’s a competitor.”