LOUISVILLE, KY — Back-to-back extra-inning walk-off victories have extended Miami’s win streak to five, as they fight to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Forty-four consecutive years, the Hurricanes have earned an invite to the NCAA Tournament, but every major mock bracket has them out for now.
A deep run in the ACC Tournament could maybe get them over the hump and keep the streak alive.
It took 13 innings to do the trick Tuesday, but the Hurricanes (30-26) finally put away Georgia Tech 6-5 in the opening game of the ACC Championship at Louisville Slugger Field.
"Well, we couldn't buy a big hit the first half of the season. Our first half of the season was kind of a nightmare for us and for me and for our team,” Miami coach Jim Morris said after the win. “It's been tough on us, because the expectations are so high at Miami, and the pressure is there with the 44.
“But I think that our guys believe in ourselves now and we're starting to play really a lot better the last month. We got some big hits, and that's something I think can grow and get better. We get in a tournament and we've got good pitching and we've got a chance to win.”
The Hurricanes face Wake Forest at 3 p.m. Thursday. The winner of that game will advance to the semifinals of the ACC Championship.
“Well, I'd like to win the tournament and have no doubt. So we're still a way. I don't think we're a lock by any means,” Morris said. “We need to win on Thursday, and play good the whole tournament, in my opinion.”
Morris plans to send normal Friday night starter Jeb Bargfeldt (7-3, 2.20) to the mound to face the Deacs Thursday.
“We're starting Jeb. At least I remember one guy -- we had to pitch really our one, two, three this weekend, because I feel like every game has been a must-win to get to this point to get our record to where it needed to be and to get everything to set us up for an opportunity,” Morris said.
The Deacs won a series at Miami this season. Wake’s starter Thursday, Parker Dunshee, earned the win in the series opener while Bargfeldt took the victory for the Hurricanes in the second game.
“Well, I think that we played them, so that's good and we played Georgia Tech, so you know a little bit more about them than you would if you were playing a Louisville that you haven't really seen play other than on TV,” Morris said. “I'd rather have played people and see what they do, and let our coaches analyze their hitters and their pitchers and for us to have that experience behind us to know what we need to do to win.”
For Wake Forest coach Tom Walter, the starting pitching decision was pretty easy.
“We’re going to throw Parker Dunshee for that game, and save all our bullets for that contest,” he said about who would throw against the opening game winner. “Colin Peluse, Griffin Roberts. 2 or 3 guys Those are the three guys who will be on the board for that game.”
Walter said he would use several guys on the staff for the Wednesday game against Georgia Tech - 7 p.m. scheduled start time. John McCarren could get the start, but expect to see Morgan McSweeney, Carter Bach, Drew Loepprich and Chris Farish all get some time on the mound.
“If we’re lucky enough to advance, we have a day off to recharge the bullpen,” Walter said. The Deacs have Friday off.
Last season, the Deacs barely made the conference tournament and also snuck in the NCAA Tournament as one of the last at-large bids. This season, they earned the No. 3 seed in the ACC Championship.
“It’s different in that we’re not playing for our postseason certainty. We’ve played our way into the NCAA Tournament regardless, and that’s new for us,” Walter said. “We’re not used to that. This is the first time we’ve been one of the higher seeds and where the seed benefits us in terms of tie-breakers.”
There’s been a lot of chatter about the ACC Championship format, with the opening four game essentially being elimination games leading to four ‘meaningless’ matchups later in the week.
“With 14 teams in the league, there’s no perfect format. If you only have eight teams in your tournament, that means you have six eliminated. That means teams are out of the running for the tournament in April,” Walter said. “To have 40 percent of your teams in that situation is not ideal. We have to have 12 teams in our tournament.
“Last year we had 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament and our goal is always to get as many as possible. Last year, North Carolina didn’t make it because they didn’t make the ACC Tournament. Carolina deserved to be in last year. We needed to make the change, and I think this is the best format. The other part of the equation is that you don’t want teams getting worn out in the conference tournament. Your top seed having to play five or six games isn’t a good idea. The ultimate goal of the conference tournament is to send as many teams to the NCAA as possible, but also to have those teams be ready to compete.”