Valiant Dirtbags Rally Falls Short in Season-Ending Loss at Miami
LBSU erased an 8-1 sixth-inning deficit to pull even with Miami in the eighth, but the host Hurricanes won with a ninth-inning walk-off to win the Coral Gables Regional.
Coral Gables, Fla. - After five full innings at Alex Rodriguez Park on Sunday night, most of the 1,900 people in attendance already had thoughts of host Miami (48-11) playing in a Super Regional the following weekend. The Hurricanes led 8-1 after scoring in each of the first four innings, and needed just 12 outs to secure a win in the Coral Gables Regional. But Long Beach State (38-22) had other ideas, and never quit on its season. The Dirtbags scored seven unanswered runs—including a six-run sixth inning—to storm back and tie the game, 8-8, in the eighth and stun the Miami faithful.
The Hurricanes would ultimately regroup, and Randy Batista’s bloop single over the head of second baseman Jarren Duran with two outs in the bottom of the ninth brought home the winning run in a thrilling 9-8 victory for Miami.
“I’m extremely proud of my team, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” said Dirtbags head coach Troy Buckley. “A very resilient group who’ve learned how to grind all year. Not always pretty, but at the same time…I love my kids. That’s a tough way to go out.”
Miami was able to take an early lead thanks to a solo home run from All-American catcher Zack Collins in the first inning. The Canes added another run in the second on an RBI double from Edgar Michelangeli, then busted the game open with three runs in each the third and fourth innings. Miami scored without a hit in the third, using three walks, two sacrifice flies, a couple of errors and a hit batter for push across three runs. In the fourth, a two-run home run from Willie Abreu stretched the lead to 8-1 and seemingly put the Hurricanes out of range.
But the Dirtbags refused to let up and got a rally going in the sixth. Luke Rasmussen (who got LBSU on the board with an RBI single in the third) was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, then Daniel Jackson grinded out a tough walk to put two men on for Alex Muzzi. The junior changed the game with one swing, driving a pitch high to left and carrying it over the wall for a three-run home run. It’s the first career homer for Muzzi and it cut Miami’s lead to just 8-4.
David Banuelos kept the rally going with his first career triple in the next at bat, and the bases would soon be loaded on consecutive walks to Garrett Nelson and Brooks Stotler. After a pitching change, Duran walked to force in a run and make it 8-5. After Zack Domingues grounded into a fielder’s choice to bring in a run, Garrett Hampson did the same to score Duran and make it 8-7. All told, the Dirtbags scored six runs on two hits in the sixth inning.
The Dirtbags tied the game in the eighth, taking advantage of a Canes error. Brooks Stotler hit a one-out, ground-rule double to the left field corner. He was cut down on a fielder’s choice when Duran hit a sharp grounder off the pitcher and Stotler was out trying to advance to third. Domingues then lined a first-pitch single to right center to put runners at the corners for Hampson with two outs. Before the first pitch of the at bat, Miami pitcher Frankie Bartow made an errant pick-off throw to first, allowing Duran to race home for the tying run.
Dave Smith worked three hitless innings out of the bullpen before running into trouble in the bottom of the eighth. The first two Miami batters walked, then on a sacrifice bunt, the throw from Smith was wide to first, pulling Duran into the basepath at first. Brandon Lopez collided with Duran, knocking the ball out of his glove to load the bases with no outs. Lucas Jacobsen was summoned from the bullpen and he delivered an impressive performance. The sophomore lefty got a grounder to first base, which led to a force out at the plate for the first out. He then struck out Abreu swinging and got Jacob Heyward to fly out to right to escape a bases-loaded, no out jam and keep the game tied, 8-8.
In the ninth, the Hurricanes got a leadoff walk to Christopher Barr, then moved him to third with a sac bunt and a fly ball to right field. Batista cued a Jacobsen pitch off the end of the bat and carried it just enough to get it over Duran’s head and into right center. Barr brought home the winning run to send the Hurricanes to the Super Regionals after a very challenging 3-0 weekend for the hosts.
Four Dirtbags players were named to the Coral Gables Regional All-Tournament Team: Jackson at first base, Duran at second base, Rasmussen at designated hitter and Tanner Brown at pitcher.
NOTES: The 38 wins for LBSU are the most since the 2008 Dirtbags went 38-21 … Duran had five extra-base hits during the regional (two doubles, two triples and a home run) after totaling seven extra-base hits during the entire regular season … Duran ends the season on a 15-game hitting streak, the third longest of the year for the Beach … LBSU also hit four triples as a team in Coral Gables; it took the Dirtbags 44 games to hit their fourth triple of the year … Muzzi became the 11th Dirtbags player to hit a home run this season after LBSU had just six players go deep in 2015 … Muzzi also set a new career high in RBIs (3) with one swing … LBSU hit 30 home runs as a team in 2016, up from 18 dingers last year.
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