February 11, 2007

Swept Away

I know. Real clever headline.

The sweep has been completed by the Miami Hurricanes (3-2) over the UCLA Bruins (2-4).

Clutch hitting and good starting pitching earned UM a 7-3 victory this afternoon. And really, it was the clutch hits that made the difference all series. Miami got just enough. UCLA got hardly any.

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A 4-run 8th Inning Puts the Canes Out in Front

Sometimes the "right" move ends up being all wrong. Bottom of the eighth, one out, bases empty, tied 3-3, and UCLA relief pitcher Kevin Brophy was pitching well. He had allowed only an inherited runner to score since taking over in the sixth. Now the lefty Dennis Raben was scheduled to hit for Miami, and UCLA Coach John Savage played it by the book. He brought in his lefty pitcher Paul Schmidt from the pen to face Raben. On paper, it seemed like a good move. Raben is better against righties. Schmidt had pitched twice in the series already - one inning, one hit, no runs.

But Dennis Raben delivered his second extra-base hit of the night with a double down the left field line. That would be all for Schmidt. He gave way to the closer Brant Rustich with one out and a runner on second. Rustich surrendered three runs last night, the last one coming off a single from Gus Menendez. Ironically, Menendez would be his first batter.

And he drilled him. Didn't seem intentional, but it put two men on with only one out for a pinch hitter, Richard O'Brien Jr. O'Brien Jr. laced a single to right field. Dennis Raben made a big turn around third. Will Penniall comes up throwing. A play at the plate...

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Bruins Come Back Again

Not a bad time for Justin Uribe's first career home run. The freshman from Santa Ana, California put an Enrique Garcia ball over the left field wall to tie the game 3-3. Another genius on this UCLA baseball team... Uribe had a 4.6 GPA in high school. How is that even possible?

3-3, bottom eight

3-2 Miami After 7... And Let's Take a Look at the Schedules

Two innings to play at Mark Light. Six outs left for UCLA to avoid being swept. The Hurricanes lost their 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth, but scored a run in the bottom of the sixth on a Roger Tomas RBI single. Miami started that inning with a leadoff triple. The Hurricanes have done a much better job than UCLA this weekend taking advantage of leadoff hits. It's really been the difference so far.

Manny Miguelez has thrown seven great innings, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him come out for the eighth. Enrique Garcia is warming up for the Canes. He pitched well in the eighth inning on last night. If I'm managing, Miguelez pitches the eighth and Garcia pitches the ninth.

It's 3-2 Hurricanes entering the top of the eighth. Things don't look great for UCLA, but at least this gives this young team experience against top competition.

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We are Tied

It would be great if these two teams met up in the postseason. Every game they play is a nail-biter. Here are the scores of the previous five games dating back to last year: 3-1, 7-4, 5-2, 1-0, 9-8.

Miami took a 2-0 lead into the top of the sixth with Manny Miguelez cruising. He had thrown about 50 pitches after five innings and had faced the minimum 15 batters. But the Bruins finally got to him with three singles in the sixth.

Alden Carrithers had an RBI ground out and Will Penniall banged out an RBI single one at bat later to tie the score at two.

2-2, bottom of the sixth. The UCLA bottom of the order started the rally and the top of the order finished it off.

Canes Getting Closer to a Sweep... Lead by 2

Miami has this whole "get Tekotte on, let Weeks sacrifice him to second, and knock him in" thing down to a science. Here in the bottom of the fifth, Tekotte singled to start the inning, Weeks bunted him over to second base, then a wild pitch moved him to third. That is EXACTLY what happened in the third inning. This time shortstop Ryan Jackson knocked him in with a ground ball to short that ended up being an E6. Still an RBI as there was one out.

So Miami's up 2-0, Yonder Alonso is up with a runner on first and only one out. John Savage will go to the bullpen and bring in Tim Murphy. Murphy is usually the UCLA centerfielder, but the lefty will make his first collegiate pitching appearance right now and try to keep the Bruins within striking distance.

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The Yes/No Game

My favorite between-inning entertainment here at The Light would have to be "The Yes/No Game."

Pretty simple concept, but the game is a lot harder than you'd think. Basically one person in the audience is picked, and this person is peppered with yes/no questions by P.A. Announcer Jay Rokeach. But wait! (Exaggerated excitement) There's a catch! Our contestant isn't allowed to answer these questions with a "yes" or a "no" or anything like it. That means no "uh-huh" or "yup" or "right" or "exactly"... you get the point.

Oh and no extended pauses either

A little sample from today's game. I'll use P.A. and C (for contestant) to transcribe. Today's contestant was a young kid named Austin, so they went easy on him.

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Deja Vu at UM. 1-0 Canes After 3

Miguelez has breezed through three innings so far, facing the minimum nine hitters. He allowed a bunt single and a walk, but those base runners were erased (double play and a caught stealing).

Now every UCLA hitter has seen Miguelez, and the second time through they need to be more patient. It's tough because Miguelez is throwing strikes, but 28 pitches in three innings suggests a lack of patience at the plate. Too often, the Bruins hitters are jumping on the first or second pitch of the at bat. This is especially important when you consider the issues UM's bullpen has had in the season's first four games. If I were UCLA Coach John Savage, I'd be doing anything possible to get the starter out of the game and get into the pen. Perhaps the process has already begun. The ninth hitter in the UCLA order, Nolan Rouse, took six pitches in his at bat and drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Then, Alden Carrithers looked at the first two pitches of his AB, but Rouse was caught stealing to end the inning. Still, the change of approach from those two hitters is a good start.

Random Thought:

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No Score in the Bottom of the 2nd... Some Early Thoughts

Both UM's Manny Miguelez and UCLA's Gavin Brooks pitched scoreless first innings, but Miguelez only required nine pitches. Brooks threw 21. He allowed a walk and hit a batter, but also fell into the trap of throwing over to first base too much.

UM has great team speed, and when Jemile Weeks reached first base to start the inning, he was clearly getting in Brooks' head. Weeks drew several throws and took Brooks out of his rhythm. Eventually, Weeks stole second base but was left stranded.

Brooks needs to stay focused on the hitters. I've seen a lot of games at Mark Light Field, and I've seen a lot of pitchers pay too much attention to runners on base only to leave a juicy pitch right over the middle of the plate. Brooks is just lucky it isn't a hot day today, or the long innings would be much worse. It's only 78 degrees today.

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UCLA-Miami Game 3... Last Night was a Tough Act to Follow

It's a bit of a breezy, cloudy day here in Coral Gables for game three of UCLA-Miami. The good news is that UCLA has a late flight, so there's very little chance of a curfew which could occasionally lead to a tie in baseball. And nobody other than Bud Selig would want that.

A quick recap...

Miami wins 1-0 on Friday when Scott Maine and Eric Erickson combine for nine shutout innings.

Canes win 9-8 last night by scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth off closer Brant Rustich. This after UCLA blasted two solo home runs in the top of the ninth to go up 8-6.

Two tough losses for the #23 Bruins against the #5 Hurricanes.

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February 10, 2007

Canes Win 9-8 in Dramatic Fashion!

Now that was fun!

A great ending to a great baseball game at Mark Light Field. Final score: UM 9 - UCLA 8 after a three-run bottom of the ninth.

Jemile Weeks hit a solo home run in the first inning, but overall, 2007 had been a disappointment so far. Weeks is a leadoff hitter. He's supposed to start rallies. Set the table. Let the other guys knock him in.

He led off the ninth with a high bouncer up the middle. With his speed, that's good enough for an infield single. Freshman Ryan Jackson followed by lacing a single and moving Weeks to second base for Yonder Alonso. No action in the bullpen. It was Rustich's game to win or lose.

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UCLA Takes the Lead. It's Their Game to Lose

"Defense" is what Bruins Coach John Savage responded with when I asked him what his team's strength was. Based on last season's and this season's statistics, it was hard to argue with that. But defense let the Bruins down in the bottom of the eighth when third baseman Nolan Rouse threw wildly to first on Gus Menendez's ground ball.

That was a bad way to start the inning.

After a sacrifice bunt moved Menendez into scoring position, pitcher Brant Rustich was summoned to get out pinch hitter Jason Haggerty and Blake Tekotte. He walked Haggerty and fell behind 3-1 to Tekotte.

Tekotte cracked a ball to the left side of the infield. Against most teams it could have been a hit, or at least a fielder's choice and an RBI. But after all, UCLA's strength is, in fact, defense. Shortstop Brandon Crawford started a gorgeous 6-4-3 double play. The relay throw beat the lightning-quick Tekotte by half a step. Maybe less. End of the inning. Still 6-6.

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Middle of the 8th... Brand New Ball Game

These Bruins are scratching and clawing their way back into the game. UM's reliever Michael Rudman fails to record an out in the top of the eighth and gives up a run on three hits. Now it's up to UM's "closer" Enrique Garcia to get the Canes out of a big jam - runners on the corners, nobody out, one run in so far in the eighth, Miami leads 6-5.

I put "closer" in quotes because I don't think Miami really knows who its closer will be. This is a big moment for Garcia in his efforts to claim that job. There is action in the bullpen, but I think Jim Morris might be looking for six outs here.

He'll deal with a pinch hitter, who just so happens to be UCLA's best bat. Mickey Weisser wasn't feeling so well today, so he got the day off. But the .500 hitter is being called on now to drive in the tying run and perhaps more. A 1-2 pitch is in the dirt (score it a wild pitch) and the runner at first moves to second base. A base hit here for Weisser gives UCLA the lead. He swings at the 2-2, rolls it slowly toward first base...

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To The 8th... UM leads by 2

This is practically an ideal college baseball game. 6-4 Miami going to the top of the eighth.

We've seen clutch two out hitting, three home runs, stellar relief pitching, well-executed bunts, a beautiful diving catch by Bruins CF Tim Murphy, zero errors, no mistakes from the umpires, 3,015 fans, and Alex Rodriguez.

In the top of the seventh, Miami right fielder/relief pitcher Dennis Raben entered with a man on second base, nobody out, and already one run in for the Bruins in the inning. He faced the 2-3-4 hitters in the order and got a fly out, pop out, and strike out to end the threat.

Fast forward to the bottom of the seventh, and Novak and fellow reliever Paul Schmidt combine to blank UM's best hitters and keep UCLA within two runs.

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Some Random Thoughts After Six Innings

Three innings to play and a three-run hole for UCLA. A win tonight guarantees a series victory for Miami. Blake Tekotte's two out single in the bottom of the sixth scored Dennis Raben and made it 6-3 Hurricanes. Sadly, my boy Jason Novak gave up his first run of the season in 7.2 innings pitched. Not too shabby.

Novak did keep the Bruins within striking distance by getting Jemile Weeks to fly out and strand two runners.

Alex Koronis pitched a scoreless sixth and now works here in the seventh for Miami.

A few observations...

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UM 5 - UCLA 3, and Another Talented UCLA Sophomore Enters the Game

So UCLA starter Brendan Lafferty fails to make it past three innings. He allowed five runs on six hits.

His exit paved the way for Jason Novak's entrance into the game, and I am impressed. Novak breezed through the fourth inning, retiring the bottom of the Miami order without a ball leaving the infield.

On a quick side note, I had a terrifying moment in the top of the fifth inning. Bruins first baseman Tim Stewart, a right-handed hitter, was leading off. He crushed a ball down the left field line. Deep. Deep. Foul ball. Right in the neighborhood of my car. When I parked the car, I said to myself, "somebody is really going to have to crush a foul ball to hit this thing." Well, that somebody was Tim Stewart.

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Hittin' It Yonder

Better start updating your Player of the Year Watch Lists.

UM sophomore first baseman Yonder Alonso is unreal. He just sent a pitch deep over the center field wall for his second home run of the game, and his third of the season. This time, it was a two-run shot to give Miami a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the third.

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Starters Not Doing So Well, UM Regains the Lead

I don't think either coach really wants this game in the bullpen's hands. UM relievers have been bad and UCLA's guys haven't done much better. That's why these two numbers are so concerning...

44 and 47

That would be UCLA starter Brendan Lafferty and UM starter Danny Gil's pitch count after two innings.

UM has scored another run on a Blake Tekotte sacrifice fly to take a 3-2 lead, but it's hard to imagine these starters going too deep into the game. That's especially true for Gil who will be on a pitch count watch early in the year. Remember, Jim Morris yanked Scott Maine after only 73 pitches last night, despite five scoreless innings.

Top of the third, UM 3 - UCLA 2.

The Bruins Came to Play Tonight

A walk is a good as a hit, so the UCLA hitters seem content to allow Danny Gil to keep walking them. After a one out bunt single from Will Penniall, RF Justin Uribe singled to put runners on the corners with one out. The DH Casey Haerther grounded out, but knocked in a run in the process. So there were two outs, and Gil was facing the ninth hitter in the order and protecting a 2-1 lead.

And he walked him. NEVER walk the #9 hitter. Especially one that is batting .200. And if you're gonna walk the #9 hitter, don't follow it up by walking the leadoff hitter. But Gil did that too. Okay, okay. If you're gonna walk those two guys to load the bases, at least make the next guy in the order (Brandon Crawford) earn it.

Plunk.

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Canes up 2-0 after One Inning. Some Early Observations

UCLA has an advantage it should exploit. Miami pitcher Danny Gil is not exactly slow to the plate, but he's not particularly quick either. Add that to the fact that Miami catcher Richard O'Brien Jr. has been shaky defensively this season, and the Bruins might be able to steal some bases. Brandon Crawford already swiped one in the first, though he was left stranded at second base. Not only did he get a good jump, but O'Brien's throw sailed high above his target's head. We'll see if Coach Savage keeps the pressure on O'Brien tonight.

Danny Gil looks good early. He struck out the last two batters of the top of the first, and his splitter is diving all over the place.

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AROD in the House

It's a good thing Derek Jeter isn't attending tonight's game, because his "buddy" Alex Rodriguez has dropped in to catch a ball game.

Had Arod decided not to become a major leaguer out of high school, he would have been a Miami Hurricane. So he made it up to UM by donating over $4 million for renovations of Mark Light Field.

By next year, we'll be watching Canes game at Alex Rodriguez Park.

Rodriguez and UM Pitching Coach J.D. Arteaga have been good friends since childhood, and as I visited the UM dugout about an hour ago, Arod and Arteaga were having a pregame chat. Rodriguez usually keeps a low profile around here (he was at last night's game apparently and nobody told me!), so I wasn't able to speak to him. If only he knew my Bar Mitzvah theme was the New York Yankees. He probably would have made some time for me.

UCLA at Miami Game 2... Let's See Some Runs Please

Sloggin' away in Coral Gables for game two of this three-game series between #5 Miami and #23 UCLA. In case you missed last night's result, pitching and defense won for Miami in a 1-0 shutout. UM ace Scott Maine recorded the win and true freshman Eric Erickson pitched four scoreless innings for the save.

After last night's loss, UCLA is now 2-2 this season with all four games against ranked opponents. The Bruins are batting .302 as a team, which is about average in college ball. But keep in mind that this team erupted for 19 runs last Sunday. So taking away that game, UCLA has scored a combined six runs in three contests. The bats need to wake up.

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February 09, 2007

Final Score: UM 1 - UCLA 0

Quite fitting that the game would end with UCLA stranding a runner and missing another chance to score. Miami pitcher Eric Erickson certainly left the door open for the Bruins, only to shut it in their faces.

Having already thrown three scoreless innings in relief of Scott Maine, Erickson trotted out for the ninth. He began the ninth inning the same way he began the sixth - by allowing a leadoff double. But he ended the ninth the same way he ended the sixth - unfazed and unblemished.

Erickson has guts. The true freshman made his first appearance of the year. He faced a ranked opponent and got no run support. It was 1-0 when he entered, and 1-0 when Semisonic's "Closing Time" played over the P.A. System here at Mark Light Field to tell the fans in orange and green it was time to go home and celebrate.

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Going to the 9th, UM 1 - UCLA 0

Well if this is any consolation, I'm going to feel really badly for Tyson Brummett if UCLA does not come back and win in the ninth. He has just completed his night by walking Yonder Alonso with two outs in the eighth. The lefty Paul Schmidt will come in to face the lefty hitter Dennis Raben.

Brummett allowed only three hits and one run in 7.2 innings, walking four and striking out eight. It was a dominating performance by the big righty, but he is in line for the loss right now.

Now Raben steps to the plate with Alonso leading away at first base, Canes leading 1-0. Can't help but notice right now how disappointing the hitters have been in the opening games of 2007 for both UCLA and UM. Other than the Bruins' 19-run outburst last Sunday, neither team has scored more than five runs in any game yet. Big breaking ball by Schmidt strikes out Raben, and the Canes strand a runner.

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8th Inning... 1-0 Canes

Miami is leading 1-0 at home as we begin the eighth inning, but I think the Bruins have the Canes right where they want them. Miami's bullpen has been dreadful this season (other than Erickson's performance tonight). Erickson is still pitching for Miami. If I were Jim Morris, I'd let him pitch the ninth if he throws a scoreless eighth.

Why put the game in anyone else's hands right now? The closer of this team, Enrique Garcia, gave up two runs in 1.1 innings last Friday. Right now, RHP Michael Rudman (a freshman) is warming up. Rudman has two appearances and an ERA of 6.00.

Stick with Erickson!

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After Six... UM still clinging to a 1-0 lead

We've seen a lot of off-speed pitches and breaking balls tonight, but Miami Head Coach Jim Morris just threw the biggest curve ball of the game.

This was Scott Maine's line after five innings: 5IP, 2H, 0R, BB, 5Ks, 73 pitches.

It turns out that will be his final line. Morris has removed Maine to start the sixth inning in a 1-0 game and replaced him with stud freshman Eric Erickson (sweet name).

From up here in the press box, Maine did not appear injured and he certainly was pitching well enough to stay in, but I think Morris is making a big effort to limit his staff's pitch count early in the season. In fact, no starter has made it past the fifth inning in any of UM's first three games this year.

The first two UM games saw Miami's bullpen implode and blow the game. So what does Erickson do as he makes his first appearance of the season?

Immediately gives up a gapper into right centerfield for a leadoff double to Tim Stewart, then walks Mickey Weisser.

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Miami 1 - UCLA 0 After 4 Innings

I know it's a cliche, but if you expect to come into a place like Miami and beat a team like Miami, you cannot afford to waste your golden opportunities. After stranding three in the first three innings, UCLA starts off the top of the fourth with a triple from Mickey Weisser. The transfer from Sierra Junior College hit .545 in the opening weekend, and he put UM pitcher Scott Maine in a jam to start the fourth.

But Maine has been nasty tonight.

He struck out Brandon Crawford looking and got back-to-back groundouts from Gabe Coehn and Casey Haerther.

Out of the inning.

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Miami 1 - UCLA 0 Top of the 4th

Done with three innings here at The Light, and so far it's exactly what we expected. Brummett and Maine are throwing strikes and have only given up two hits combined. The difference is UM has capitalized on its opportunities, and UCLA has left three men on base. After three innings it's Miami 1 - UCLA 0.

I hope this crowd enjoys good pitching, because I don't think the fans are going to see a lot of runs tonight as long as the starters are on the hill.

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Bruins at Canes...the preview

Not such a great start to the night. Let me explain...

Mark Light Field, the home of the Miami Hurricanes, is not exactly one of those new, gorgeous, ground-breaking stadiums. It is a great ballpark to see a game at, with respectful and knowledgeable fans, the best milkshakes you'll ever have, and of course, good talent on the field.

But it does have its problems. Tonight it was the wireless internet. There was some sort of issue that was out of our hands, and to make a long story short, we didn't have internet access until long after the first pitch.

So I wrote this fancy game preview, hoping you'd be able to read all about UCLA and Miami before UM pitcher Scott Maine started tossing. Better late than never. Here you go (No hard feelings Mark Light Field. I still love you):

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