Driven and Determined: DiMare, UM Back in NCAA Tournament
By Camron Ghorbi
Gathered together in the team locker room to learn their postseason fate, 30 or so baseball players clapped and loudly cheered when the University of Miami was announced as a No. 2 seed in ESPN’s “Road to Omaha” selection show on Memorial Day.
But one man situated in the back of the locker room – silent for nearly 30 minutes until the Starkville, Miss., Regional was announced – stood stoically, even as the name of his team and its first-round opponent, Central Michigan, appeared on the television screen.
Asked about his reaction (or lack thereof), Hurricanes first-year head baseball coach Gino DiMare was candid in his remarks.
“This is a step in the direction. Yes, we’re happy we’re in the regionals, absolutely. But you know what? For so many years, this was just a foregone conclusion,” DiMare said. “We’re thinking about finding a way to win a championship. That’s what I want our players to think about.”
“Foregone conclusion” sounds ambitious, but take a look at the numbers, and DiMare is spot on.
Donning the iconic old English script “M” on his ballcap – the same one that has adorned the outfits of most of Miami’s 25 College World Series teams and 46 NCAA Regional appearances – DiMare shares stories from a program’s history he knows better than almost any. He’s is in his 20th season on the coaching staff and spent four years as a UM outfielder under legendary coach Ron Fraser from 1989-1992.
Miami made an NCAA-record 44 straight appearances in the postseason from 1973 – 2016, until that streak was abruptly ended in 2017. The Hurricanes missed the postseason again in 2018, meaning that – with no seniors on their roster – no current Hurricane has ever played in an NCAA postseason game.
What was once as predictable as death or taxes, Miami baseball’s postseason run began and ended at the ACC Championship in Durham, N.C., the last two seasons, far away from Omaha, where they ended up the previous two, in 2015 and 2016.
While two years felt like a half-century to many in south Florida, no one felt the weight more than DiMare and long-time pitching coach J.D. Arteaga.”I can’t stress enough how many times from the beginning, from the first day in August, we were talking about winning a national championship,” DiMare said. “That’s what I grew up on in this program, watching it and of course playing in it and coaching for it for so long.”
It’s what has driven this talented young team from the very start of late-summer workouts, through fall ball and into its spring schedule. Miami was ranked in the top 20 for most of the season and just missed out as a first-round NCAA Regional host.
Miami underwent what DiMare and his staff hopes what was just a brief dip for a “Mount Rushmore” program, one with more College World Series appearances than all but one other school (Texas) and more national titles than all but four other programs.
The Hurricanes’ 48 wins in Omaha are the fourth-most of all time. Of the other programs in the top 10 in all-time wins over CWS history, a whopping five did not make the 2019 postseason field, including the top two.
“There’s so much more parity. I think that’s probably true in all of college sports, you’re seeing that more and more,” DiMare said. “Nobody knows it better than us, losing the last couple of years and not getting into the NCAA tournament, which we can’t ever let happen.”
Clearly, DiMare’s Hurricanes are embracing the expectations of their first-year skipper.
“I’m happy to be [on] the team to get us back into the regional and back in the playoffs, but it’s not our ultimate goal,” sophomore Alex Toral said. “We want to go to Omaha and we want to win in Omaha. It’d be cool to be that team that gets us back to Omaha and, hopefully, win it.”