The University of Miami is still alive in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship — at least as of Sunday afternoon.
The Hurricanes were back to pounding home runs Sunday, this time four that accounted for six precious runs to lead Miami to an 8-5 victory over Louisiana in an elimination game in the Coral Gables Regional at Mark Light Field.
Louisiana (41-24) ended its season and the Canes (42-20) advanced to a 6 p.m. Sunday game (ESPNU) against Texas, the team that gave UM its first regional loss late Saturday night. Should Miami lose again to Texas, the Canes’ season would be over and the Longhorns would win the regional. Should Miami defeat Texas, the Canes would play Texas again in the regional final on Monday at a time to be announced.
“That team’s a good team,’’ UM coach Gino DiMare said in the postgame news conference. “They battle hard. We knew that coming in. Good thing we got some insurance runs ourselves. The bottom line is I’m proud of our guys but we’ve got to move forward and get ready for Texas. That game is over. We did what we needed to do.”
UM right-handed junior starter Alejandro Rosario hurled a career-high 114 pitches in a strong performance, allowing four runs — three earned — on seven hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out six. His last two pitches were clocked at 98 and 99-miles-an-hour.
“Felt good,’’ Rosario said.
All-American closer Andrew Walters came in to relieve Rosario in the seventh, and gave up a 2-out homer to Caleb Stelly in the eighth to cut UM’s lead to 6-5. But Miami’s Jacoby Long and Yohandy Morales blasted solo homers in the ninth to give Walters the 8-5 cushion and his eventual 12th save of 2023.
It was Morales’ 19th homer of the season.
Walters struck out Conor Higgs with runners on second and third in the ninth to end the game.
The Hurricanes, who couldn’t muster a home run on Saturday, started off right Sunday when freshman Blake “Hollywood” Cyr homered to left-center with Edgardo Villegas (hit by pitch) and Morales (single) on base. But the Canes, designated the visiting team, watched their 3-0 first-inning lead diminish in the second when the Ragin’ Cajuns’ CJ Willis singled up the middle to score Higgs, who reached on a throwing error by Cyr.
Louisiana made it 3-2 in the third on another sloppy defensive play by the Canes. With one out, Carson Roccaforte singled and went to third on Heath Hood’s single to right. Roccaforte scored on Rosario’s wild pitch after catcher Carlos Perez threw to Rosario, who was waiting at the plate but failed to catch the ball.
After a scoreless fourth, each team put two runs on the board in the fifth. Morales’ RBI-single drove home CJ Kayfus, who led off with a walk. Villegas scored when the left fielder bobbled Morales’ hit, and UM led 5-2.
But the Cajuns trimmed the Hurricanes lead to 5-4, scoring two more on an RBI-single by Hood and infield out.
The Canes made it 6-4 with Morales’ 18th career home run in the seventh.
DiMare made sure to give kudos to his starter. “Alejandro was outstanding — outstanding! I mean, 114 pitches. That’s not the case when you get to this stage of it. We’re trying to save guys. You couldn’t ask for a better start from him.”