June 21, 1999 - by
FSU Drops Nat’l Title Game to Miami

June 19, 1999


Box Score

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – For all his trips to the College World Series, Miami
coach Jim Morris never had a national title.


Kevin Brown and Michael Neu knew took care of that, and the janitors in
Coral Gables, Fla., won’t be using this year’s trophy to prop open the bathroom
door.


Brown homered in the second inning and hit a three-run double in Miami’s
five-run fifth, leading the Hurricanes to a 6-5 victory over Florida State
Saturday in the championship game of the College World Series.


It was the third national championship for Miami (50-13) but the first for
Morris, the only coach in NCAA history to bring his team to Omaha each of his
first six seasons.


“It was a great win for all of us,” Brown said. “Coach has been here the
last six years. It’s great to finally get it out of the way, and I’m just glad
I could do my part.”


Since he arrived in Coral Gables, Morris has lived in the shadow of former
coach Ron Fraser, who won titles in 1982 and 1985.


Morris also has been haunted for three years by the memory of a ninth-inning
homer by LSU’s Warren Morris. The Hurricanes were one out away from the 1996
title when Morris lifted the Tigers to a 9-8 victory.


“It’s a huge monkey off my back,” the Miami coach said. “I’ve thought
about it thousands and thousands of times.”


Morris has been asked time and again about that game, by everyone from
reporters to professors to the diners at the civic luncheons in Miami.


“I’ve got to admit it, sometimes I had a very, very difficult time
answering. I don’t think anyone understands how difficult it was to handle. It
was crushing,” Morris said.


Brown made sure Morris wouldn’t have to keep talking about it.


With Florida State (57-14) leading 2-1, Marcus Nettles led off the fifth
with a bloop single to left, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Kris
Clute’s single to right.


Bobby Hill singled up the middle and Clute went to third. Brian Seever
grounded to shortstop Brett Groves for the second out, but rather than throw
home to try and get Clute, Groves opted for the force.


After Blair Varnes walked the next two batters, loading the bases, Brown
doubled up the gap in right.


Neu, meanwhile, worked the last two innings, retiring the side in the ninth
for his 16th save. When he struck out Kevin Cash to end the game, the
Hurricanes piled on him in the infield.


“I was trying to make the right pitch and focus,” Neu said. “We were one
pitch away from the national championship. The game isn’t over until the last
out, and I was just trying to stay relaxed.”


The Seminoles pulled within 6-4 in the seventh when Vince Vazquez walked
Matt Diaz and Sam Scott, Jeremiah Klosterman grounded out and Cash singled in
both runners.


Florida State made it 6-5 in the eighth. Ryan Barthelemy led off with a
triple over the head of center fielder Seever and scored on John-Ford Griffin’s
sacrifice fly.


Marshall McDougall, who hit two home runs against Stanford on Friday and had
an NCAA record-six against Maryland last month, flied deep to left, with Mike
Rodriguez making the catch on the warning track.


Although the shot would only have tied the game, Morris couldn’t help
thinking back to three years ago.


“It did cross my mind,” he said. “I sure wasn’t designing a ring in the
dugout. I did remember what happened, and I had a flashback, but Mike made the
next pitch and we got out of it.”


Miami’s victory denied Seminoles coach Mike Martin his first title in 11
trips to Omaha in 20 seasons.


Martin started freshman Varnes (11-2), who injured a knee ligament in the
pile when the Seminoles won their super regional game and had not pitched in
Omaha. He even broke out Florida State’s garish pale-yellow uniforms, usually
worn only for Sunday games.


“We wanted to win, but I’m not upset,” Martin said. “If we had come out
and played poorly, I would feel really, really bad. I love that our guys played
with tremendous effort.”


Alex Santos (13-3) started for Miami and worked five innings, helping the
Hurricanes at last take home the right trophy. When Morris took over for
Fraser, he found a runner-up trophy holding open a bathroom door.


“We definitely don’t have another doorstop,” Morris said.


This might not have been the most talented Miami team, but it was the best
this season.


“I’ve always said when I’ve got the team that wins the national title,
that’s going to be my best team,” Morris said. “This team plays together the
best.”


By TIM KORTE
AP Sports Writer

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