NCAA Coral Gables Regional primer

Senior outfielder Dale Carey knows how important it is for Miami to defend its home field.

Liz Condo

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Two years ago, the last time the University of Miami baseball program hosted an NCAA Regional, the Hurricanes celebrated when they saw the pool dealt to them.

Stony Brook? Pssht. Just some school in the Northeast.

Missouri State? Pssht. Can’t even guess the mascot.

The Seawolves and the Bears would go on to embarrass the Hurricanes in the double-elimination bracket, outscoring them 22-4.

"We know how that went and we tell our younger guys don’t take anything lightly — nobody that comes here," senior outfielder Dale Carey said. "We have to come out ready to play every single game 100 percent and get through this regional and get on to Florida.

"Coming in here, we have to defend our territory. This is our home field, so we have to defend it. (Stony Brook) came in here and put it to us pretty well. We just can’t let that happen."

Miami (41-17) learned its lesson from that experience and hopes for a different result when it opens its NCAA record 42nd straight tournament appearance. Since 1972, the Hurricanes hold a 117-43 (.731) record in regional play.

"It’s pretty amazing to me to say 42 — 26 for me," head coach Jim Morris said. "It’s amazing. It’s a credit to our administration to giving us an opportunity to compete at that level, to our players, to our coaches being able to keep that string going. It’s an amazing thing."


Early in the season it looked like the mark might be in jeopardy as the Hurricanes flirted with a .500 record 25 games in.

Despite dropping two of three games as the top seed at this past weekend’s Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, the Hurricanes have won 28 of 33 overall.

"There’s a lot of confidence flowing around this locker room," senior outfielder Tyler Palmer said. "It’s just keeping that confidence high and get ready to swing it, play good defense and our pitching’s going to be stellar."

That formula will need to be present should the Hurricanes stand a chance at their 24th trip to the College World Series but first since 2008. Last year with Morris in the hospital, the team lost two of three at the Louisville regional and failed to advance to Super Regional play for the third straight season.

The rival Florida Gators, this postseason’s No. 2 national seed, would likely host Miami. The Gators ended the Hurricanes’ seasons from 2009-11.

"We’re excited for Friday. Not the Super Regional yet," Palmer said. "We’ve got to make it out of our own region. We don’t want 2012 to happen where we’re already looking ahead and it comes back to bite us in the butt."

Here’s a look at the NCAA Coral Gables Regional …

TEAMS

No. 1 Miami (41-17), First in Atlantic Coast Conference — A NCAA record 42 straight regional appearances

No. 2 Texas Tech (40-18), Fourth in Big 12 Conference — Last made the NCAA Tournament in 2004

No. 3 Columbia (29-18), Ivy League champion — A program-record 29 wins this season

No. 4 Bethune-Cookman (26-31), MEAC Champion — Reached NCAA Regional for eighth time in past 10 years

SCHEDULE (Double elimination)

May 30 — No. 3 Columbia vs. No. 2 Texas Tech at 2 p.m.; No. 4 Bethune-Cookman vs. No. 1 Miami at 7 p.m. on ESPN 3

May 31 — Losers Bracket at 2 p.m.; Winners bracket at 7 p.m.

June 1 — Regional championship at 2 p.m.

June 2 — If necessary

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Miami DH Zack Collins, Fr.: The ACC Freshman of the Year is tied for second in the conference with nine homers and 49 RBI in 56 games (53 starts). He ranks third in slugging percentage (.542). Collins began the season just 1 for 27 (.037).

Texas Tech 1B Eric Gutierrez, So.: Gutierrez led the Big 12 Conference in home runs (12), RBI (56) and slugging percentage (.567) this season. He has started in every game the past two years (114).

Columbia LHP David Speer, Sr.: Speer went 7-2 with a 1.86 ERA (second lowest in the Ivy League) in 12 starts this season. He recorded six complete games for fourth in the nation. In 87 innings, he gave up just 69 hits with 75 strikeouts and seven walks.

Bethune-Cookman RHP Montana Durapau, Sr.: Durapau is 11-1 with a 1.71 ERA and three saves in 18 games (15 starts) this season. He has allowed just 74 hits, struck out 98 batters and walked 19 in 110 1/3 innings.

STORYLINES

.338: Average for Columbia freshman infielder Will Savage, which leads the Ivy League

.980: Fielding percentage for Texas Tech, which ranks fourth in the nation

14: Strikeouts by Wildcats righty Montana Durapau in his past two starts against the Hurricanes. Bethune-Cookman won both games.

15: Saves for Miami closer Bryan Garcia, tied for seventh in the nation

QUOTE BOARD

"There’s no question your bullpen’s a very important part of that (success), and if they don’t get it done you’re going to have problems because a lot of games are going to come down to the eighth and ninth with the way the bats are today." — Coach Jim Morris on his bullpen, which allowed eight runs in 13 innings at the ACC Tournament

"We’re going to be ready for him. Third time’s a charm. We know what he has, and we’re going to prepared for him this week." — Senior infielder Tyler Palmer on Bethune-Cookman starter Montana Durapau, who has beaten the Hurricanes the past two years

"I thought I would be back for summer. I’m glad to be back now. I haven’t had too much pain. I definitely get sore a lot faster than I’d like to. That’s no big deal about that. I feel pretty comfortable at the plate. Swinging at some bad pitches here and there, which will get better as I get some more at-bats." — Sophomore infielder David Thompson, who had surgery on March 24 after being diagnosed with Venous Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. He returned May 16.

LOOKING AHEAD

June 6-9 — NCAA Super Regional

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.