The Miami Hurricanes hadn’t lost back-to-back games since losing two straight to Virginia back on March 24. That is until now, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the No. 1 seeded Canes.
After losing to Georgia Tech in its ACC Tournament opener Wednesday afternoon, top-seeded Miami fell to Clemson 3-2 Thursday night and was eliminated from advancing to the ACC Championship game on Sunday. The Hurricanes entered the ACC Tournament winning 27 of their previous 30 games and were 24-6 in the ACC during the regular season. They were hoping to earn a national seed in the NCAA Tournament with an ACC title but failed to make the big plays in crunch time in both of their losses.
“This tournament was very important for us in order to get a national [NCAA] seed because we were kind of on the bubble from that perspective,” Miami coach Jim Morris told the Miami Herald. “We needed a couple of big hits here and there to make that happen, but this is a tough league. Anybody coming into this tournament could win it, and I said that before the tournament.”
After surrendering the lead late in Wednesday’s loss, Miami’s bullpen struggled again Thursday. With the game tied 2-2 in the ninth inning, closer Bryan Garcia allowed two of the first three batters he faced to reach base and Clemson second baseman Steve Wilkerson made him pay with a walk off single to score the game’s winning run from second.
“Our guys played hard,” Morris told HurricaneSports. “We had some opportunities where we could have won the game with a base hit here or there. Bottom line, they got that big hit when they needed it. They were fighting hard…everyone was fighting hard in that game.”
Miami, which swept Clemson during the regular season, had a chance to take the lead in the top of the ninth after Dale Carey reached base on a one-out single and advanced all the way to third on a Clemson throwing error. Tyler Palmer and David Thompson each had an opportunity to bring him home but both grounded out to end Miami’s threat.
“Tyler had been doing a great job all year coming up clutch,” said Carey, who went 4-for-5 after going 3-for-4 on Wednesday. “When I got to third base, I expected the same thing out of him - he put a good swing on the ball, but it chopped into the ground.”
Nothing seemed to go right for Miami Thursday night whether it was behind the plate or on the mound. According to HurricaneSports, starting pitcher Chris Diaz suffered a hand injury during pregame warmups and only made it through 4.1 innings. Diaz, who was named the ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year earlier in the week, walked a season-high five batters and threw three wild pitches but managed to hold Clemson to only one run on five hits.
“It was definitely one of my toughest outings all year,” Diaz said. “I couldn't find a feel for my fastball. I was trying to make adjustments the whole game, but nothing seemed to work. My team battled, they kept us close, and unfortunately we came up short.”
Unfortunately for the Hurricanes their drive for a national seed may have also come up short. The 16 regional host sites for the NCAA Tournament will be announced at 8 p.m. on Sunday, May 25.