Morris Takes Blame for Loss, UM Falls to 0-2

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - With a young and inexperienced bullpen, Miami baseball coach Jim Morris needs to give as many of his young arms as much experience as possible early in the season to find the right combinations later in the year.

In Saturday's 8-5 loss to Mercer (2-0), Morris looked too soon to his bullpen in what turned out to be the turning point in the game.

With Miami leading 5-4 in the top of the seventh inning, right fielder Dennis Raben came in for relief and struck out two of the first three batters he faced.

A fired-up Raben pumped his fist when he struck-out the second batter, but that would be the final batter he would face for the night.

With a man on first and second Morris sent in freshman pitcher Kyle Bellamy to finish the inning. The result: Bellamy hit the first batter he faced and walked the following batter—tying the game at five.

Bellamy was quickly yanked for redshirt freshman David Gutierrez, who allowed another run—giving Mercer a 6-5 lead—before getting out of the inning.

"We didn't play very well, but it was the worst managed job of a team that is supposed to be good that I have ever seen," Morris said. "I take total blame for this loss. I did a very poor job of managing the game tonight."

"Taking Raben out was a bad decision. We brought a guy in (Bellamy) that we hope can fill that role for us, but that was the wrong time to do it. I should have left Raben in, or brought in an experienced guy with the game on the line."

Miami has not lost a season opening series at home since 1967, when the Hurricanes lost to Florida State twice in a two game series. Miami (0-2) entered the series ranked second nationally by Baseball America, but they are still searching for their first victory.

Miami took a 2-0 lead in the first inning off a single by Menendez with two outs and the bases loaded, scoring Alonso and Sobolewski.

Gil allowed his first hit of the game—a two-run homerun by Billy Shaughnessy—in the fourth inning to tie the game 2-2. The home run was not without controversy though as Miami players and coaches believed the homerun to be foul down the leftfield line.

"I wouldn't have come out and talked to the umpire if I thought it was fair," Morris said. "The umpire thought it was fair and that is his decision."

Miami answered in the bottom of the fourth, scoring one run when freshman designated hitter Mark Sobolewski was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, allowing Tekotte to score from third base

The homerun seemingly had an effect on Gil's confidence as he hit one batter, allowed a run off of a wild pitch, along with two hits and one walk to four of the next six Mercer batters.

Gil finished the game giving up four runs, three hits, four walks, and striking out four batters in 4.1 innings pitched.

Relief pitcher Jason Santanna entered the game in the fifth inning with one out and the bases loaded. Santana allowed one run on a fielders choice infield single by Mike Armstrong. Mercer took a 4-3 lead at the top of the fifth inning.

Miami again had an answer in the bottom of the fifth as third baseman Gus Menendez began the inning with a walk and stole second, advanced to third on a pass-ball and hit home on a sacrifice fly by Nick Freitas to tie the game at 4-4.

Later in the inning, freshman Ryan Jackson hit his first RBI of his career, scoring Tekotte from second base to give the Hurricanes a 5-4 lead. After Mercer intentionally walked Alonso, Sobolewski came to the plate with the bases loaded again, but grounded out to the shortstop.

Raben then came in and pitched 2/3 of an inning in relief in the top of the seventh inning, striking out two of the three batters he faced.

Gutierrez forced batter Steve Karwatt to pop-up an infield fly on the first pitch, but neither freshman catcher Jason Hagerty or Gutierrez called to make the catch as the ball dropped two yards from home plate allowing Mercer to score the go-ahead run and take a 6-5 in the top of the seventh.

"You would expect Hagerty to catch the ball, but he didn't see it," Morris said. He hollered I didn't see it and we didn't have good communication in finding the ball. David Gutierrez made an attempt at catching the ball, but you don't expect a pitcher to have to make that play."

Freshman pitcher Michael Rudman pitched the final two innings of the game, surrendering a two-run homerun in the ninth inning to Armstrong, giving Mercer an 8-5 lead.

Mercer closer Cory Gearrin struck out four of the last six UM batters and allowed only one hitter to reach base on a walk.

Miami will play Mercer in the final game of the series today at 1 PM.

David Lake can be reached at lake@canestime.com

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