Miami sent 10 men to plate in the eighth after collecting just four hits through seven scoreless innings. The Dolphins lost to the Hurricanes for the second time in three days in the NCAA Tournament, ending its season at 37-24.
The Hurricanes (38-22) advanced to face No. 2 Florida on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. JU couldn’t find an answer for its bugaboo, losing to Miami for the ninth straight time and the fourth time in the last three seasons in Regional competition.
“This was a tough game to lose because we played our hearts out,” said JU head coach Terry Alexander. “We got on them early and we kept them at bay with some big plays. I really thought we had things under control but this is baseball and it happens. Miami got to us in the eighth inning last game and they did it to us again today. I would have liked to see us get a big hit today but we couldn’t find it.”
Dan Gulbransen gave the Dolphins a chance to eliminate the Hurricanes, going 3-for-3 with two RBIs in helping the Dolphins build the early 3-0 lead. JU still finished the campaign with 34-or-more wins for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
The Hurricanes tacked on two ninth-inning insurance runs which proved important when the Dolphins had the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the frame but Miami’s Daniel Miranda entered and forced a fly out to right to secure the save.
Reliever Sean Green replaced starter Tony Mollica in the fifth and put up zeros until the ill-fated eighth.
Rony Rodriguez gave the Hurricanes life leading off the eighth, by pulling a drive down the left-field line for his team-leading 13th home run to cut JU’s lead to 3-1. That also prevented the Dolphins from posting its first shutout against Miami since 1979.
But Miami did more than just prevent an ignominious fun fact. Rodriguez’s home run ignited a nightmarish inning for the Dolphins. A walk, fielder’s choice and two singles followed a strike out before Chris Pelaez ripped a 0-2 single through the right side to plate Stephen Perez. A wild pitch would allow Daley Carey to score the equalizer and sway momentum the other way for the first time in the contest.
After a hit by pitch loaded the bases, Nathan Melendres used a seven-pitch at-bat to work a walk and force home the game-winning run.
Closer Chris Anderson stopped the bleeding, forcing a ground out to stand the bases loaded. But the damage was done at the point, even as Anderson made his JU-record 36th appearance.
Starting pitcher Tony Mollica lived up to his bend-but-don’t-break track record, throwing 4 1/3 scoreless innings while holding Miami to just three hits. The southpaw navigated out of frequent trouble, keeping the Hurricanes off the scoreboard despite walking five batters and plunking two others.
Nursing a 2-0 lead, righty reliever Sean Green bailed out Mollica in the fifth. Green entered with runners on first and second with one out. Alex Swenson helped his new battery mate, throwing out Rony Rodriguez on the back-end of a double steal attempt before Green struck out the first batter he faced to end the threat.
JU’s offense added an insurance run in the seventh, marking the first time since the first inning that the Dolphins dented the scoreboard. Chris Connelly lined a leadoff single and moved into scoring position off a sacrifice bunt.
Gulbransen capped his clutch afternoon with a sacrifice fly to medium-deep right for a 3-0 lead. Gulbransen got enough of a fastball to lift it the other way, allowing Connelly to race home without a slide. Gulbransen’s second RBI, followed by an intentional walk to Adam Brett Walker, ending Miami starter Bryan Radziewski’s outing after 113 pitches.
Jonathan Murphy boosted JU in the first, getting Molica out of a potential jam when the leftfielder scooped up a single and hit catcher Alex Swenson on the fly to tag Rodriguez at the plate for the third out.
JU utilized a patient approach to score two runs in the opening inning, forcing Radziewski to throw 36 pitches on an afternoon that reached 96 degrees.
Taylor Ratliff worked a five-pitch walk and advanced to third on Murphy’s double down the leftfield line. Miami nearly cut down Ratliff at the plate off Gulbransen’s soft grounder to the left of the mound. Radziewski raced off the rubber quickly but failed to cleanly pick up the ball off a backspin for an infield single, allowing Ratliff to come across with the opening run.
Radziewski rebounded by striking out Adam Brett Walker with runners on the corners but failed to help his own cause when his pickoff throw to third sailed high into the netting above the JU dugout, allowing Murphy to score on the error.