Friday, May 31, 1996
Miami's Clint Weibl wobbled at times Friday night but never let his teammates down.
The junior right-hander outpitched Clemson All-American Kris Benson in helping the fourth-seeded Hurricanes to a 7-3 College World Series victory at Rosenblatt Stadium.
"I was looking forward to pitching in this game," said Weibl, who improved to 15-3 with his sixth straight win. "Benson is one of the best pitchers we faced all year, and I was just trying to keep us close."
He did that and more, protecting the 3-0 lead his teammates handed him before he even took the mound. Weibl left with a 4-3 lead after 6 2/3 innings, then watched Robbie Morrison close out the victory in notching his 14th save.
In handing Benson his first loss of the season, fifth-seeded Miami improved to 48-13 and advanced to a Sunday showdown of bracket one unbeatens. The Hurricanes will face top-seeded Alabama, which handed Oklahoma State a 7-5 loss in the game that opened the 50th annual tournament. Friday's two games drew 18,207.
Fourth-seeded Clemson dropped into Sunday's 6:35 p.m. elimination game against the Cowboys by losing its eighth straight game in CWS play.
"We can't take any negative thoughts into Sunday or we're going to get back on the bus headed home," Clemson Coach Jack Leggett said. "We need to come back and play hard, win a game and get ourselves right back into the mix of this."
Not much positive happened Friday for the Tigers, starting with Benson's shaky opening against the Hurricanes. The junior right-hander, projected as the first pick in next week's professional free-agent draft, struggled with his control in giving up three runs in the first inning.
Left fielder Gary Burnham got the Tigers two runs with his first-inning double off Weibl, then threw away one of them when he committed one of the all-time mental errors in CWS play. After fielding Rudy Gomez's two-out double in the second inning, Burnham tossed the ball into the left-field stands.
"I just made a huge mistake and cost us a run," Burnham said.
He was charged with a two-base throwing error on the play that allowed Gomez to score. The Tigers got a run in the third to pull within 4-3 before Weibl settled down, retiring 15 of the 16 batters he faced before leaving with two runners on in the seventh.
Morrison relieved and got Matthew LeCroy to hit a fly ball that center fielder Ryan Grimmett ran down just in front of the warning track.
"This is a game of inches and things didn't seem to be going our way tonight," Leggett said.
That was evident from the start. Benson, sporting a 14-0 record and a nation-leading 1.42 ERA coming into the game, had walked just 22 batters in 142 innings. But he struggled with his control and loaded the bases with none out in the first by giving up a leadoff single to Grimmett and walking Gomez and Pat Burrell.
After Eddie Rivero struck out, T.R. Marcinczyk ripped a two-run single and Michael DeCelle followed with an RBI single for a 3-0 Miami lead.
"I felt fine, but I was working behind in the count and had to throw the ball over the middle of the plate," Benson said. "I found a groove later on and stuck with it."
Benson did record 15 of the 19 strikeouts that helped Clemson set a CWS record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. But he gave up eight hits, walked four and hit another in giving up five runs in 7 1/3 innings.
"If you get behind him, good luck," Marcinczyk said. "That's why it was important to jump on him quick."
Coach Jim Morris said it didn't hurt that Miami got some help from Burnham in the second.
"Every run you get off Benson is big," he said.
Trailing 4-2, Clemson cut the deficit to a run when Kurt Bultmann and Matthew LeCroy led off the third inning with back-to-back doubles. Weibl kept the Hurricanes in front by getting the next three batters to ground out.
Clemson didn't threaten again until a two-out walk to Doug Livingston and Bultmann's single brought Morris out of the dugout in the seventh. He called for Morrison, who ended the inning by getting LeCroy to fly out.
Miami chased Benson in the eighth when Rivero singled to lead off the inning, advanced to second on a sacrifice and scored on DeCelle's single. Ken Vining replaced Benson and ended the inning by striking out Kevin Nykoluk and Jim Gargiulo.
Clemson wasted a scoring chance in its half of the eighth after Burnham singled with two outs and Jerome Robinson reached on shortstop Alex Cora's error. Morrison eased out of trouble by striking out Will Duffie.
Miami punctuated its win with two runs in the ninth. Cora led off the inning by drawing a walk and Grimmett bunted for single. Vining threw wildly to first, allowing Cora to score on the play and advancing Grimmett to third.
After Gomez and Burrell walked to load the bases, Rivero blooped a single into left field to score Grimmett with the Hurricanes' seventh run.
— Steven Pivovar