June 6, 2010

CORAL GABLES, Fla.--Texas A&M will play for the NCAA Coral Gables Regional Championship after an 11-7 win over 11th-ranked Miami Sunday evening before 2,248 fans at Alex Rodriguez Park.

With their backs to the wall entering play on Sunday, the Aggies (43-20-1) rallied to defeat Dartmouth 4-3, then downed the Hurricanes (42-18) in a back-and-forth affair later in the afternoon to force a winner-take-all championship game. The teams will meet for a berth in the super regional round on Monday at 6 p.m. (CT).

"We told the team this morning once we got to the field that we were going to be there for 10 hours, so make sure you get after it and compete," A&M coach Rob Childress said. "We told them it would take a heroic effort on everyone's part to make sure we finish the day off the right way, and there were a lot of heroes today."

A first-inning home run by Harold Martinez would give Miami a quick 3-0 lead off A&M starter Michael Wacha, but the freshman settled in and kept a hot Hurricane offense off the board for the next two frames.

The Aggies finally got to UM's David Gutierrez in the fourth, scoring three in the frame and three more in their next at-bat. Adam Smith would deliver a game-tying tape-measure home run in the fourth, Matt Juengel had RBIs in both frames and Joe Patterson added a two-run double in the fifth.

Miami threatened in their ensuing at-bat, placing the go-ahead run on base with two outs. Chris Pelaez poked what seemed like a game-tying single through the right side, but Tyler Naquin fielded the ball and threw a strike to catcher Kevin Gonzalez--who caught the short hop and tagged Scott Lawson on the brim of his helmet just in time to preserve the lead.

A&M's bats would feed off that play, scoring five times off Hurricane reliever ?? Encinosa in the sixth. Capping the rally was a long two-run home run by Juengel that made the score 11-5.

Miami scored two in the sixth off Wacha, but the Aggies went to closer John Stilson for the second time that day in relief, and the All-American shut out the Hurricanes over the game's final 11 outs to preserve the victory.

Juengel finished the game 3-for-5 with a game-high four RBIs, while Greene and Gonzalez had two hits apiece and Patterson drove in three runs. Nathan Melendres had two solo home runs--one inside-the-park--to pace the UM offense, which out-hit the Aggies, 14 to 10.

Wacha (9-2) gutted out his ninth win of the season, allowing 10 hits and seven runs over 5 1/3 innings.

"It was the biggest game of the year so far for us, and Michael--a true freshman--came out and gave us a great start," Childress said.

Stilson, meanwhile, tossed 3.2 shutout innings, giving up just four hits and one walk while fanning two to earn his 10th save of the year. The sophomore threw 120 pitches and 6.2 innings of baseball on Sunday, spanning two games and an hour rain delay.

"If we're going to pack up our stuff and head to College Station, we're going to do it with John Stilson on the mound," said Childress of Stilson's performance on Sunday. "I would be able to sleep the rest of the summer knowing that if we didn't get it done today, John was on the mound. I've got no questions about that. I would have liked to have gotten Michael through six, but I felt they were getting the momentum back and that was the save. We definitely stretched him out, as far as we have since the Kansas game, but he gave us a chance for tomorrow and that's all you can ask for."

Gutierrez (5-2) suffered the loss, giving up seven hits and five earned runs over five innings. The loss was just Miami's 13th all-time in 91 regional games played at home.

Texas A&M will look to capture its sixth regional championship all-time and third under Childress Monday evening, with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. (CT). Neither team has announced a starter. The game will be televised nationally by ESPNU HD.

"We had a good day today, but we haven't done anything yet," Childress said. "We came here to win this tournament. We've got an opportunity tomorrow, but we understand what kind of tradition Miami has playing on their home field. We understand what they can do to you in a hurry if it gets away from you, just like yesterday. We've given ourselves a chance. Now we have to go finish."