June 2, 2012

CBI Live: #2 UCF 9, #4 Stony Brook 8

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Bears bury Hurricanes with seven-run first

By David Furones

College Baseball Insider


CORAL GABLES, Fla. –The game was over as soon as it got started.


A seven-run first inning for No. 3 seed Missouri State let the proverbial floodgates open and sealed Miami’s fate. The No. 1 seed Hurricanes became the first team sent home in the very Regional they were hosting, going down to the Bears 12-2 Saturday at Alex Rodriguez Park.


“To get the seven in the first, obviously that relaxes everybody a great deal,” Missouri State coach Keith Guttin (left) said. “We’ve been a team all year where if we get four or five runs, we’ve been very successful. So to get out to a seven-run, nine-run lead really made us feel really good.”


The 12 runs Missouri State (40-21) posted on the board fell two shy of its season high. Clean-up man Keenen Maddox had a 3-for-4 day with four RBI and two runs.


“We were hyped,” Maddox said. “We didn’t want to stop scoring.”


Brock Chaffin, Kevin Medrano and Brent Seifert also had multi-hit games for the Bears, who came into Regional play with 159 multi-hit games from their players this season.


Missouri State starter Pierce Johnson, who, with a 2.55 earned run average and a 3-6 record, has struggled to get run support all year, received a pleasant surprise in the 7-spot he saw on the board as he took the hill for the second inning.


“It was definitely nice,” Johnson said. “I haven’t had it all year. So it was fun to actually go out there and try to establish my pitches. I had a little leeway so I could just focus on throwing strikes.”


Johnson ended up throwing eight innings, giving up just two runs off six hits, striking out seven and walking two to earn the victory against the Canes (36-23).


Johnson finished his outing retiring 17 of the last 18 batters he faced.


“I was trying to establish my fastball, and I was leaving it up a little bit,” Johnson said. “So I had to go to my breaking ball and tried to keep them off-balance really.”


The first-inning rally started with one out when Medrano dropped a bunt down the third-base line to get on. After a Seifert walk, clean-up hitter Maddox drove them both home on a double down the left-field line.


After a Luke Voit walk and a Chaffin bunt base hit, Derek Mattea and Joey Hawkins both hit RBI singles to make it a 4-0 ball game. Then Brett Marshall drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, Spiker Helms brought home another with a base hit, and a seventh run scored on a passed ball.


Miami starter Steven Ewing did not make it through that first inning. The seven runs (six of which were earned) were all charged to him as he gave up six hits and two walks in his 0.2 innings.


The two teams exchanged two-run innings in the bottom of the second and top of the third. Then Miami coach Jim Morris, desperate to stay in the game with nothing left to play for after Saturday, opted to go with starter Eric Whaley in relief.


Whaley dueled with Johnson at first, retiring the first six batters he faced and holding the Bears offense scoreless for three frames, but the top of the Missouri State lineup got to him for three runs in the sixth before Whaley made his exit.


After Miami’s struggles fielding bunts in its 10-2 loss to Stony Brook, Missouri State did plenty of bunting to ignite its early offense Saturday, although Guttin said there was no correlation with the number of bunts and the opponent.


“I didn’t see [yesterday’s game], honestly,” Guttin said. “We don’t play the opponent. We play the game. Whatever the game dictates offensively, we’re going to do.”


For Miami, a team that hit .259 on the season, the worst batting average the program has posted since 1970, it’s nightmare of a postseason finally came to an end.


It was the first time the Canes went two-and-out in postseason play since 1993.


The Hurricanes lost to the 3- and 4-seeds in their Regional by a combined 18 runs over their two days of postseason activity.


“Very discouraging end for us,” said Miami coach Jim Morris, who has made it to more College World Series than any other coach since he took over at Miami in 1994. “When you come and host, you like to think that you have a good chance to win as a No. 1 seed.


“A lot of thoughts going through my head right now, but No. 1, we have to figure out how to get Miami baseball back to where Miami baseball has been for many years.”


The Bears’ trip to South Florida was extended for at least one more day as they now prepare to face the loser of the UCF-Stony Brook game for another elimination game.


Game Notes

·        Miami, the road team for Saturday’s action, appeared to get off to a good start in the top of the first. The first two batters got on with base hits, but Bears center fielder Spiker Helms threw out Stephen Perez as he tried to go first to third on a Chantz Mack base hit. Two strikeouts later, Pierce Johnson was able to get out of the inning.

·        Miami lost Saturday in much different fashion than it did to Stony Brook Friday. After committing three errors Friday, Miami went without an error against Missouri State. “We didn’t make mistakes today. We played good defense,” Morris said. “I’d rather lose the way we lost today then the way we lost yesterday. Today we got beat. Missouri State played an outstanding game.”

·        “We’re very spoiled,” Morris said, responding to a question about fans wanting him ousted. “We’re expected to get to Omaha every year.”

·        Morris pointed to a lack of strong recruiting classes as killing him over the years. Several committed players have gone high in the draft and opted to go the professional route.

·        Missouri State will go with Cody Schumacher Sunday against the loser of UCF and Stony Brook in another elimination game.


(photo courtesy of MSU Media Relations Office)