'Canes roll in 32nd straight appearance
Coral Gables Regional
1. Miami (47-11) -- at-large berth
2. NC State (36-24) -- at-large berth
3. Florida Atlantic (47-16) -- automatic berth, won Atlantic Sun tournament
4. St. Bonaventure (29-22) -- automatic berth, won Atlantic 10 tournament
Saturday, June 5
Game 3 -- Florida Atlantic 14, St. Bonaventure 2
Game 4 -- Miami 19, NC State 5
Game 5 -- Florida Atlantic 10, NC State 2 (NC State eliminated)
Sunday, June 6
Game 6 -- Miami 19, Florida Atlantic 6 (Florida Atlantic elimnated)
Miami advances to Super Regionals.
One player doesn't make a lineup, but sophomore shortstop Ryan Braun makes Miami's lineup completely different. Braun missed 18 games with a rib cage injury, and the Hurricanes lost four of them, including their only series of the season (against North Carolina). Jim Burt put up impressive numbers, but Braun is the team's best hitter (.378-8-41) and helps Burt and everyone else get better pitches to hit. The 2003 Freshman of the Year is batting .400 since he returned to lineup May 18 but has been limited to DH duty.
Miami makes its record 32nd straight regional appearance and has won its last 18 opening-round games as a host. Don't figure on that to change. The Hurricanes are battle tested. They went 9-6 against ACC teams, 4-2 against the SEC and 8-0 against other teams in the 2004 tournament, including a three-game sweep of Long Beach State that included scoring seven earned runs against Jered Weaver. Miami has an easy draw with St. Bonaventure and will use No. 3 starter Brandon Carmardese (5-2, 3.94) in the opener to save senior lefty J.D. Cockroft and sophomore righthander Cesar Carillo for later games. Along with the Braun injury, health concerns have forced outfielders Brian Barton, Paco Figueroa and Richard Gianotti and third baseman Gabby Sanchez to miss time. All have returned except Figueroa, who could return to action this week. He hasn't played since detaching a flexor tendon in his left index finger April 11. (His twin brother Danny has missed the entire season and is being redshirted.)
On The Other Hand
Maybe Florida Atlantic is a surprise pick in this category, but the Owls are an experienced team that won a regional at Alabama in 2002 and lost a 1-0 regional game to Miami last year. The pitching staff is replete with a veterans; senior righthander Chris Saxton will start Friday against NC State. He spent a good part of the year in the bullpen, registering seven saves, but moved to the rotation late and threw a five-hit complete game against Stetson in the A-Sun tournament. Crafty lefty Randy Beam (10-3, 3.24), the team's senior ace, will take the ball in game two. He held down a very similar Miami lineup in the 1-0 game a year ago. Corner outfielders Jeff Fiorentino and Rob Horst hit 16 and 15 homers respectively while center fielder Tim Mascia batted .398.
NC State returns to Mark Light Field, where it lost a super regional a year ago. It returns the pair of ace righthanders that got it there last year in sophomore Michael Rogers (9-3, 2.30 with 108 strikeouts in 113 innings) and senior Vern Sterry (9-2, 1.99 with 103 strikeouts in 108 innings). Each threw three-hit shutouts in a doubleheader at Texas, the first time the Longhorns had ever been blanked in a twinbill. The Wolfpack won those games 2-0 and 1-0, however, highlighting the biggest reason it's more likely to serve as a spoiler than a winner in this regional: a stagnant offense. N.C. State led the ACC with a 3.26 ERA, but ranked ahead of only Duke in average (.272) and runs scored (319).
Hey, Don't Forget Us
St. Bonaventure defeated top-seeded Rhode Island twice in the A-10 tournament to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance. It marked the first league title in 19 years for coach Larry Sudbrook, who admitted after the game that even he didn't expect to win. He probably doesn't expect much this weekend either. Senior shortstop Eric Wilson led the offense with a .374 average and tied for team highs with seven homers and 40 RBI.
Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.