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OMAHA—If the College World Series were played in April, Miami would have been in business. As it turns out, that’s about when the Hurricanes peaked.
Miami coach Jim Morris seemed to suspect as much a month ago, when he said he felt good about his team’s chances but not as good as he did in April, when his team was “clicking on all cylinders.” He revisited that language after Miami’s season came to an end with an 8-3 loss to Stanford on Wednesday night.
“We really haven’t been hot with the bats at the end,” Morris said. “We’ve got a great offensive club, and in the middle of the season I really felt we could have beaten anyone at anytime, because we had all cylinders clicking . . . We didn’t get it going out here. The team that wins out here is not necessarily the best team, it’s the team that gets hot, year in and year out.”
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Point: Miami actually led 1-0 heading into the bottom of the third, when Stanford second baseman Cord Phelps led off with a double to left-center. That sparked a two-run rally, and Stanford never relinquished control of the game.
This week, the hotter team was Stanford, which utterly dismantled and eliminated the top-seeded team in the tournament.
“They outplayed us tonight,” Morris said. “I guess they outplayed us in really every phase of the game: pitching, defense and hitting.”
After scratching out a run on a pair of infield singles, a pair of stolen bases and a sacrifice fly in the first inning, Miami’s vaunted offense didn’t muster another hit until the sixth inning. First-team All-American Yonder Alonso struck out in his first three at-bats and later said he and his teammates were trying to do too much.
But Alonso also credited Stanford’s pitching. Freshman righthander Danny Sandbrink made just his sixth start of the season and his first appearance since throwing a complete game against Pepperdine in regionals. Cardinal coach Mark Marquess planned to limit him to 75-80 pitches because of the layoff. Sandbrink used a heavy sinker to hold Miami to just one run on two hits over four innings before handing off to senior righty Erik Davis.
The plan was to ride Davis as long as possible, and he battled until the ninth inning, persevering while Miami’s bats gradually awakened from their slumber in the later innings. Davis used his changeup to keep Miami’s big bats off balance, and he made big pitches to get out of jams in the seventh and eighth innings. The Hurricanes left runners on the corners in the eighth when Davis struck out Yasmani Grandal and Blake Tekotte, and they left runners on second and third in the seventh and the ninth. Closer Drew Storen came on to get three straight outs in the ninth after Alonso’s double against Davis put runners on second and third with none out.
“Going into the game, we knew they were going to score some runs, but if we could just keep them out of the big inning . . .” Davis said. “They scored in three different innings, but all three were one-spots. So we were able to keep momentum on our side.”
The Hurricanes went just 5-for-31 with 17 strikeouts with runners in scoring position in Omaha, which explains more than anything else why they’re going home early. Stanford, meanwhile, continues to win big spots, as Marquess put it.
Junior second baseman Cord Phelps came up huge Wednesday, falling just a home run shy of the cycle (and his hard, deep line drive to right field in the seventh looked like it had a chance to get out of the park for a brief moment before Dennis Raben tracked it down). Phelps started Stanford’s two-run rally in the second inning with a leadoff double to left-center, and he capped a four-run fifth inning with a two-run triple to right-center that just eluded the glove of the diving Blake Tekotte. Center fielder Sean Ratliff had started the scoring in the fifth with a massive two-run homer to right field to chase Miami starter Enrique Garcia, and the hits just kept on coming from there.
“I feel like it’s been that way for us all year. Our offense is a really contagious thing,” Phelps said. “When one or two guys get going, everybody kind of follows suit. I think that’s a big part of our success.”
Like Morris said, Stanford was simply better in every phase Wednesday, even defensively. Miami made two very costly errors, including one by third baseman Mark Sobolewski that helped turn a two-run fifth inning into a four-run outburst.
But one area of Stanford’s superiority stood out above all others.
“The key for us was our offense,” Marquess said. “I thought we got some big hits.”
Maybe in April, Miami would have gotten a few more of those big hits. But not Wednesday, when it mattered most.
“We had everything you need in a good ballclub,” Raben said. “We had good pitching, a good bullpen, offense, defense—I know they were all up there in the top ranks in the country. But we weren’t hot out here, the bats weren’t swinging. I don’t know that we were pressing or if you can point to any one reason. We just didn’t get it done.”