Baseball Season Recap

Playing one of the nation's toughest schedules and losing 13 players to Major League Baseball a year ago, Coach Morris and the University of Miami Baseball team knew this season would be a trying one. The Hurricanes lost six starting position players and five key pitchers off of their 2001 National Title Team, yet had high hopes for this year's campaign.

Miami came into the season ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 7th in three of the major preseason polls, and was hopeful to return to the postseason for the 30th straight year. The Canes schedule featured 14 teams who advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2001, five of those teams won their Regional, and three of them advanced to 2001 The College World Series. On Miami's 2002 agenda were in state rivals Florida State, Florida, Florida International, and national powers Georgia Tech, Cal State Fullerton, Southern California, Tennessee, Long Beach State, and North Carolina. The Hurricanes also were slated to participate in 2 midseason tournaments, The Homestead Challenge and The Cal State Fullerton Kia Bash.

Miami started off the season by winning 8 of 12 games, included taking 2 of 3 from 25th ranked Tennessee and going 3-0 in the Homestead Challenge. Then it was onto The Kia Baseball Bash in California, which featured perennial powerhouses Cal State Fullerton, who was ranked 8th nationally and Southern California, ranked 17th in the country. Facing some stout competion out west, Miami dropped 2 of 3 games in the tournament and limped home with 9-6 record overall on the season. The Canes proceeded to win 7 of their next 14 games and then embarked on a trip to Dick Howser Stadium to face the 10th ranked Seminoles of Florida State in a three game weekend series. Led by five homeruns, Florida State opened up the series with a 13-3 victory over Miami on Friday night. The Hurricanes, led by starting pitcher Dan Touchet evened the series with a 5-2 victory Saturday and improved their record against FSU to 33-22 under Coach Morris. The Miami victory also ended Florida State's 19-game home winning streak. Sunday's game was one of those classic Miami-FSU battles. The game went back and forth all afternoon, but ended in a 9-7 defeat for the Canes. Florida State's freshman shortstop, Stephen Drew hit a walk-off three-run homerun in the bottom of the 13th inning, to help the Noles take two of three games from Miami. The following weekend Florida State swept the Hurricanes by outscoring Miami 32-17 in the three game set at Mark Light Stadium. The Canes won 12 of their last 20 games down the stretch including taking two of three games from 13th ranked Long Beach State, and winning their last five games in a row to finish with a 30-26 regular season record. Miami would have to sit and wait to see if they would get an invitation to the postseason for an NCAA record, 30th year in a row. The news came down from the NCAA, Miami was invited to a Regional, but they drew a very tough paring. The Canes would have to go to Gainesville, Florida as a third seed, and face three in state schools.

In Miami's double elimination Regional were the top-seeded Florida Gators, who won both of its games against Miami in the regular season, the second seed FIU Golden Panthers, and the forth-seeded Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman. Miami opened up play against Florida International in a game, which featured nearly a four-hour rain delay. Miami pitchers, Dan Touchet and Vince Bongiovanni combined to give up only 4 hits and 1 run as the Canes beat FIU 9-1. It was Miami's 10th postseason victory in a row, dating back to 2001. Miami's offense was lead by senior shortstop Javy Rodriguez and junior third basemen Kevin Howard, who each had 2 hits and 2 runs batted in. Miami would next face the Florida Gators in a winners bracket game, after Florida beat Bethune-Cookman the night before. The Gators (ranked 6th in the nation) threw the ace of their staff, Alex Hart (13-2) against the Canes. Miami proceeded to touch up Hart for nine hits and five runs over 5.1 innings, on their way to a 7-2 victory. Danny Matienzo led the scoring for Miami; he hit his 16th homerun of the season and had 4 RBI's in the game. Junior hurler Kiki Bengochea won his 6th game of the year, by going 8 strong innings and allowing only 2 runs on 6 hits. The Miami win put them in the driver's seat of the Regional. They only had to win 1 more game to advance to a Super Regional, while Florida had to turn around and play a loser's bracket game against Bethune-Cookman that same night. In the nightcap, The Gators routed Bethune-Cookman to advance to Sunday and a rematch with Miami. Florida would have to defeat the Canes twice to advance. In one of the most exciting games in recent memory, Florida defeated Miami 11-10 in 10 innings, in what would be the first of two games on Sunday. Miami sophomore Jim Burt tied the game at 10 runs apiece, in the top of the 9th inning with a 2-out titanic, 3-run homerun. Florida countered in the bottom of the 10th with a walk-off homerun from Mark Kiger to win the game. This setup a do-or-die game between the two, for the right to advance. The second game of the day was just as exciting as the first. Miami and Florida each exchanged the lead numerous times, and the stage was set for a classic ending to a classic Regional. With the score tied 5-5 going into the ninth, Florida scored 2 runs in the top of the ninth to take a 7-5 lead and put a ton of pressure on Miami. Danny Matienzo hit a sacrifice fly and cut the lead to 7-6, and then Jim Burt came calling again. Burt ripped a 2-strike, 2-out pitch for a double to left center field that scored 2 runs and clinched Miami's eighth straight Regional victory. Burt was one of six Hurricane players to be named to the All-Tournament Team. Danny Matienzo, Javy Rodriguez, Brad Safchik, Kevin Howard, Kiki Bengochea were also named to the All-Tournament Squad. This was Matienzo's third season in a row claiming All-Regional Team honors, and Javy Rodriguez's second year in a row. Miami was on their way to Columbia, South Carolina. They would face the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Super Regional and the right to go to the 2002 College World Series.

After dropping the first game to South Carolina 10-7, Miami bounced back to win 5-2 in the second game of the Super Regional and force yet another do-or-die game. Although leading 3-1 throughout the game, and going into the ninth inning leading 4-1, Miami couldn't put the Gamecocks away. Three doubles, a single, an error, a wild pitch, and a passed ball, all lead to five runs in the top of the ninth, and spelled doom for Miami. The Canes had one more chance at some late inning heroics, but with two men on and two outs, Jim Burt hit along foul ball to right field that was caught for the final out of the game, and the final out of the Canes' season. Miami ended up with a 34-29 record for the year. While this season didn't go the way the Canes would've liked it to, and the postseason ended in heartbreak, this is a young team and they will be back. They only stand to lose anywhere from 4 to 9 players (depending on who decides to leave early for the MLB Draft), and will return a good nucleus of starters for next year.

Miami had 7 players drafted in the Major League Baseball Draft. Both junior third basemen Kevin Howard and senior infielder Javy Rodriguez (who was voted the team's MVP for the second year in a row) were both selected in the 5th round. Howard went 135th overall to the Cincinnati Reds and Rodriguez was picked 144th overall by the Anaheim Angels. Junior pitcher Kiki Bengochea was drafted in the 11th round by the Texas Rangers, senior infielder Matt Dryer was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 15th round, and 21 year old sophomore pitcher T.J. Prunty was selected by his hometown Minnesota Twins in the 21st round, who also drafted Prunty directly out of high school two years ago. Also drafted were junior catcher Danny Matienzo (23rd Round by the Minnesota Twins) and 4th year junior pitcher Troy Robertson (47th round by the New York Mets).

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