Hurricanes Advance To Championship Game

Hurricanes Advance To Championship Game

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June 14, 2001

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AP Sports Writer

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – There was no panic when Miami fell behind Tennessee early. Instead, there was resolve.

The Hurricanes couldn’t get their offense going against Volunteers starter Brian Gates, so they got together in the dugout and decided to take control of the game.

Kevin Howard and Danny Matienzo hit back-to-back home runs to spark a seven-run fourth inning, leading Miami to the College World Series championship game, 12-6 over Tennessee on Thursday.

“We just kind of looked at each other and said we’ve got to battle,” Matienzo said. “We’ve been hitting great this whole week, so we knew we could do it. We just had that confidence and went out there and did it.”

Kevin Brown also homered for the Hurricanes (52-12), who are in the title game for the second time in three years and sixth overall. Miami won during its last championship game appearance in 1999, and also won in 1982 and ’85.

“With the way Gates threw the first few innings, I didn’t know if we’d score any runs,” Miami coach Jim Morris said. “He had great stuff.”

Miami, which has won 16 consecutive games, will play Stanford (51-16) in Saturday’s title game. The Cardinal beat Cal State Fullerton 4-1 on Wednesday night. Neither team has lost in this year’s College World Series.

The Hurricanes, who beat the Volunteers 21-13 on Saturday, used a combination of power hitting and aggressive baserunning to erase an early deficit against the Volunteers (48-20).

“I want to compliment our team,” Morris said. “We battled back from being down 4-0 and put up a seven-spot. We did whatever it took.”

Howard had four RBIs, Mike Rodriguez was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and Matienzo 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Charlton Jimerson also tied a single-game series record with four stolen bases.

Reliever Dan Smith (6-0) allowed one run and three hits in three innings, a drastic improvement from his last appearance against the Vols. He allowed four runs and four hits in one-third of an inning in Saturday’s win.

“When I started the day, I knew I had to go out and redeem myself,” Smith said. “I was embarrassed after my first outing.”

Mike Rodriguez and Javy Rodriguez hit consecutive singles to lead off the inning, and Howard followed with a home run off Gates (6-5) to make it 4-3. Two pitches later, Matienzo homered over the left-field wall to tie it.

Kevin Mannix was hit by a pitch, Brown doubled and Kris Clute had an RBI groundout to give Miami a 5-4 lead. One out later, Jimerson singled and scored from first on Mike Rodriguez’s two-run single to center to make it 7-4.

Devon Nicholson came in and walked Javy Rodriguez before getting Howard to ground out to end the inning after 12 batters went to the plate.

“He was pitching real well in the first three innings,” Howard said. “But I think it was all about our team stepping up and breaking his rhythm.”

Gates, the first of six Vols pitchers, allowed seven runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings.

“You’ve got to give Miami some credit,” Tennessee coach Rod Delmonico said. “They’re a pretty good hitting ballclub. Team speed shows up, and I think Gates got a couple of balls up and they hit them hard.”

Brown hit a two-run homer off Nicholson in the fifth for a 9-4 lead, and Mike Rodriguez’s RBI single off Will Curtiss four batters later made it 10-4.

The Vols got a run in the fifth when Ryan Moffett hit a leadoff triple and scored on Jeff Christensen’s RBI groundout.

Miami added two more runs in the seventh when first baseman Dennis Gomez couldn’t handle Howard’s grounder, allowing Jimerson to score, and Matienzo’s groundout gave the Hurricanes a 12-5 lead.

Javi Herrera’s RBI single in the eighth made it 12-6.

Tennessee, which set a CWS record with a .394 team average, scored two runs each in the second and third innings to take a short-lived 4-0 lead.

Herrera walked with two outs in the second and scored on Dan Wilson’s double. Wilson came scored on Ryan Case’s single to make it 2-0.

“They have the most heart, the most competitiveness. They just don’t quit,” Delmonico said of his team. “But Miami has a good club and it’s tough to beat them.”

Hurricanes starter Kiki Bengochea gave up a leadoff double to Stevie Daniel in the third, a single to Brandon Hopkins and consecutive walks to Christensen and Kris Bennett to force in a run. Bengochea was replaced by Smith, who gave up a sacrifice fly to Justin Parker to make it 4-0, but retired Herrera to prevent further damage.

“That was a big effort,” Morris said. “For Dan to come in and stop them when we were down with the bases loaded and they only score one run was huge.”

Bengochea allowed four runs, five hits and walked four in two innings.