Courtesy: B-CU Athletics
CORAL GABLES, Fla. - A pair of ninth-inning miscues made all the difference in the Coral Gables NCAA Baseball Regional on Friday night, as the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (26-32) dropped a heartbreaker to host Miami (FL) (42-17) to open play at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. Despite battling the Hurricanes to the brink through eight scoreless innings, the chess match ended on a 1-0 walk-off loss.
“No question, they’re disappointed and rightly so. I’m disappointed, but I’m definitely not disappointed in the way they played,” Head Coach Jason Beverlin at the postgame press conference. “That’s the way I want them to play, and I’m very proud of the way they went about their business and played the game. We just didn’t get a big hit when we needed it, but that’s baseball.”
From the onset, the pitcher’s duel was brewing, as Bethune-Cookman’s Montana Durapau matched up inning-for-inning with Miami’s Andrew Suarez, as the starters squared off for seven scoreless innings.
Making his 16th start of the season and fourth of his career versus the Hurricanes, Durapau carried the Wildcats with a three-hitter through seven frames, striking out five before yielding to classmate Scott Garner, who promptly delivered three consecutive swinging strikeouts in the eighth.
On the rubber for the Hurricanes, Suarez went a full nine innings for Miami, allowing the Wildcats to put a runner on third in each of the first three frames, but limiting B-CU to only seven hits, while striking out a season-high 10 batters in a nine-inning season-long outing.
In the bottom of the ninth, UM first baseman David Thompson reached base as a hit batter with one out. The junior reached second on shortstop Brandon Lopez’ single to right with two outs, and advanced to third despite freezing in the basepath, as right fielder Josh Johnson overplayed the ball.
Facing Johnny Ruiz, a Garner pitch slipped underneath catcher Zach Olszewski and the Wildcats’ shutout ended in a walk-off wild pitch as the Hurricanes rushed the field in the 1-0 B-CU loss.
After throwing one and two-thirds innings with three strikeouts, Garner (1-4) takes the loss for the Wildcats. Suarez (6-3) earned the win for the Hurricanes.
Throwing 109 pitches in the outing, Durapau struck out five. Unlikely to see additional action in this weekend’s Regional play, the senior ends the day with 103 strikeouts on the year in 117 1/3 innings, ranking him fourth among B-CU’s season strikeout leaders with the most innings pitched in a season, overcoming Francisco Rodriguez (110 2/3, 2007) in the first inning against UM. Durapau also ties Helpiz Moises (2002) for most wins in a season with an 11-1 record.
“I’ll put him up against anybody’s number one,” Beverlin said of his senior ace. “He’s pitched that way no matter where we go; we could go play Washington, Miami, or all the teams in our league, it doesn’t matter. He’s the same guy and he deals, that’s what he does. And that’s the bottom line, it doesn’t matter what conference, what team—he pitches the same way, and it’s good.”
At the plate, the Wildcats outhit the Hurricanes 7-4, led by Shortstop Shaun McCarty, who batted 2-for-3, while Johnson and Matt Noble each batted 2-for-4.
The Wildcats return to action on Saturday afternoon in a 2 p.m. matchup against the Columbia Lions in the elimination game. The Ivy League champion, Columbia (29-19), also dropped a heartbreaker on Friday, falling to Texas Tech, 3-2, on a ninth-inning walk-off double.