Miami falls to Texas in NCAA regional, season on the line in Sunday elimination game

Al Diaz/

The Miami Hurricanes are one loss from ending their 2023 season.

The hot-hitting Hurricanes had won 14 of their past 17 games heading into Saturday, but couldn’t get past the Texas Longhorns in the Coral Gables Regional, falling 4-1 in front of 3,306 animated fans at Mark Light Field.

No. 1 regional seed UM (41-20), ranked eighth in the nation, will meet No. 3 seed Louisiana (41-23) at noon Sunday in the losers’ bracket of the regional. The loser of that game will be eliminated from the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship. The Hurricanes have not advanced to a super regional since 2016, the last time four-time national champion Miami made it to the College World Series.

The Canes would have to win three consecutive games — two on Sunday and another on Monday — to win their regional.

“I just told them I’ve got all the confidence in the world in our team,’’ UM coach Gino DiMare said, when asked about his postgame message to the Hurricanes. “We’ve bounced back... We’ve had some crazy things happen to us this year. We’ve just got to turn the page. It’s one game. You can’t let it get bigger than what it is.

“There’s no time to start thinking about anything except Louisiana.”

Louisiana eliminated Maine 19-10 earlier Saturday.

No. 2 seed Texas (40-20) advances to a 6 p.m. Sunday game against the winner of UM’s elimination game.

Texas’ No. 2 starter, redshirt sophomore Lebarron Johnson, stifled the Hurricanes with 130 pitches in a career-long nine innings. Johnson allowed one run — a fourth-inning solo home run by Dominic Pitelli — on seven hits and three walks.

Lightning and nasty weather delayed the start of the game two-and-a-half hours, until 8:36 p.m.

“A tough one, obviously,’’ DiMare said. “The pitcher threw very well for Texas. We had our chances early. Turns out that was a big part of the game. They scored early, we didn’t get the big hits with the bases loaded and we had the right guys up. At the end of the day it was a really good pitcher, he seemed to be on his game and he got the better of us tonight. That’s the bottom line.”

Said Johnson, when asked how his arm felt: “Adrenaline is still here so it’s kind of feeling good, but tomorrow it’ll probably be hanging.’’

Texas opened the scoring when leadoff batter Jared Thomas doubled and junior Dylan Campbell extended his Big 12 and Texas-record hitting streak to 37 games with a two-run blast to left field in the first inning.

Miami promptly loaded the bases with one out in its half of the first, but Zach Levenson, who on May 20 hit a grand slam, flied out to first. Renzo Gonzalez struck out to end the threat.

But the Longhorns hit the long ball again on Jack O’Dowd’s homer to center to make it 3-0 in the second.

A most unfortunate pattern emerged in UM’s half of the second when the Canes once again left bases loaded, this time with star hitter Yohandy Morales fouling out.

Then, the game’s scariest moment in the third: With Longhorn Campbell on second after he singled and advanced on a balk, UM sophomore starter Karson Ligon hit batter Garret Guillemette on his helmet. Guillemette fell to the ground and lay motionless for several seconds as he was attended to by medical personnel. He eventually popped up to his feet and ran to first base, but was replaced by pinch-runner Jayden Duplantier, who came home on Jalin Flores’ RBI single for a 4-0 Texas lead.

Ligon (3-2), who was charged with the loss, was subsequently replaced by Rafe Schlesinger. The sophomore reliever kept Texas scoreless in pitching a masterful seven innings, allowing four hits and striking out nine.

After being evaluated by the Texas medical team, Guillemette, per NCAA rules, was allowed to return to catch in the bottom of the third.