What started out as a nightmare week ended with some optimism as the Canes somehow gave their season some renewed hope by going 2-3 this week.
It started with a battering at the hands of FIU, as the Canes gave up 12 runs and failed to score until a 2-hit, 1 run bottom of the 9th inning resulted in a 12-1 defeat where the Canes managed 3 total hits. They looked to recover on Wednesday as Evan McKendry gave the Canes 5 shutout innings. But the bullpen blew the 2-0 advantage, and in the 9th inning, FIU was inexplicably able to tag up and score from 2nd (not a misprint) base and win the game 3-2.
With the season teetering on the brink, the Canes responded by finding their bats, and scoring well in 2-1 series win over Georgia Tech to open ACC play. On Friday, Jesse LePore started well and the Canes raced out to a 6-2 lead. But in the 5th inning, Lepore lost it, allowing 5 more runs, and the Canes trailed 7-6. But unlike in the past, Miami rallied, the bullpen held strong, and the Canes came back to win 10-8. Albert Maury went multiple innings for the win, Frankie Bartow got the save, and Carl Chester was the star at the plate with 4 hits.
On Saturday, Miami once again raced out to a lead, this time 4-1. But when Jeb Bargfeldt exited after 6 innings, the Canes blew the game. They once again went to Albert Maury, and this time he clearly did not have it. Jim Morris inexplicably stuck with him allowing him to give up 4 runs and the lead (although the go ahead run was clearly out at home). Trailing 5-4, the Canes rallied to tie the game and several times had the winning runner in scoring position but couldn’t bring him home. A series of curious decisions by Morris, including twice replacing his first basemen, eventually putting Gregory Veliz in, played a major role in the outcome, as it was Veliz who made a critical, 2 run error in the 10th which ultimately provided GT with their winning, 7-5 margin in 11 innings.
Sunday’s rubber match started off shaky, as Michael Mediavilla started the game by allowing a solo HR and a double. But he pitched out of that, in a theme that would run all day…giving up extra base hits and striking out batters. He would end up going 6 innings, allowing 4 runs, including 2 HRs, but would strike out 11. And at the plate, the Canes were on fire, including having James Davison reach base 6 times, scoring 5 runs, Edgar Michelangeli finally homering, and Michael Burns hitting the first HR of his Canes’ career, a grand slam. The Canes scored SEVENTEEN runs to win comfortably by 11.
Overall, the hitting came alive this weekend, while the pitching was a shakier than expected. Out of the 3 losses this week, 2 were blown by the bullpen. But the hitting is the big headline of the weekend, and the Canes now sit at a paltry 6-9 overall, but 2-1 in ACC play. This week, they have a pair of midweek games against Maine before heading to North Carolina for a weekend series against NC State.
Tue: Mar 14, 6:00 PM, Wed: Mar 15, 6:00 PM
Note: Both games are on ESPN3 with WVUM radio coverage.
Miami starts the week with 2 home games against Maine. Normally, these sorts of games aren’t really important because the committee doesn’t really weight midweek games. But for these Canes, with a terrible overall record, winning midweek games the rest of the way will be critical. Winning a weekend series, as the Canes did against GT, only improves the record 1 game, so padding that with midweek wins is how the Canes recover their record.
And Maine is a good opponent to resume build against. The Bears are 6-8 having not played a major conference opponent. They have one common opponent, FAU (Maine lost), and have been touring Florida in the early season. The Bears have announced that lefty Trevor DeLaite will pitch Tuesday and righty Chris Murphy will go on Wednesday. The Canes will flip-flop last week’s starters, with McKendry going Tuesday and Veliz going Wednesday. DeLaite has one start on the year, 3 appearances, and no decisions. His ERA is 3.00 in 9 innings. Murphy has one appearance, a start, where he was throttled and gave up 4 runs in 2.1 innings before being pulled. Overall, Maine struggles on the mound with a team ERA of 4.71, so the Canes have an opportunity to continue to hit well.
At the plate, Maine struggles, hitting .257 as a team, with only one regular starter batting above .300. That’s pretty poor given that they have not been playing major conference competition. There will be an opportunity for the Canes to work some things out on the mound, particularly with a bullpen that struggled last week.
Fri: Mar 17, 6:30 PM, Sat: Mar 18, 6:30 PM, Sun: Mar 19, 1:00 PM
Note: All games will be on ESPN3 with radio coverage on WVUM.
The Canes open ACC road play by heading to Raleigh for a 3-game set. The Wolfpack have started the year slow (not as slow as Miami) and are 8-8 overall. But they also lost their opening ACC series at Wake Forest and desperately need to recover at home this week. Out of conference, they won the 2 traditional weekend series that they played. But they also played a weird string of games where they played random home opponents from Friday to Monday, and it was losses there that depressed their record.
Despite NC State’s mediocre statistics, there isn’t a single metric, at the plate or on the mound, where the Canes really have an advantage over NC State. From a hitting standpoint, NC State is between 5-10 (closer to 10) in most major ACC Statistical categories, while the Canes are pretty much last across the board. The surprise, however, is on the mound, where NC State’s team ERA ranks ahead of the Canes. In fact, for the Canes to tumble to 10th in ERA in the ACC is pretty surprising given that this is where the Canes need to hang their hats. But there is some explanation, and perhaps cause for hope. First, the Canes played Georgia Tech, the best hitting team in the ACC, and also played at Florida. Many teams in the ACC haven’t gone against that level of competition. Second, if the Canes’ bats turned a corner last weekend, it’ll take a while to reflect in the stats. Perhaps the best reason for some optimism this weekend is that NC State has not been good at home, and is 3-4 there. They’ve actually been better away from home.
The most surprising aspect of NC State’s team is how unsettled their rotation is. Sean Adler should get the Friday start. Adler is 2-2 with an ERA of 4.64, but has been the Wolfpack’s only consistent weekend starter. The last 2 weekend outings for NC State, they have used 4 different pitchers in Games 2 and 3, and have emptied the bullpen, with none of those starters going over 4 innings (and only one starter going more than 3 innings). Even Friday starter Adler averages a little over 5 innings per outing, so the bullpen will be asked a lot. In fact, the arms out of the pen will likely be more important than the starters. Kent Klyman is probably the Wolfpack’s most reliable arm out of the pen, with 6 appearances and a sub 2.00 ERA. The other innings eaters are Evan Brabrand, Evan Gauthier, and Zach Usselman, but none of them have good ERAs. For all the turmoil on the staff and rotation, the Wolfpack do have an established, high quality closer in Austin Staley who has 2 saves and an ERA of 1.69.
At the plate, NC State has 2 hitters batting over .300, Josh McLain and Ed Debo. McLain is also a threat on the basepads going 4-4 on stolen base attempts. The Canes pitchers have also had an issue giving up Home Runs this year, and NC State is 5th in the ACC in Home Runs, led by Brett Kinneman, Joe Dunand, and Shane Shepard with 3 apiece. As a team, they bat .425, which is almost 200 points higher than the Canes. For Miami to win this series, they’ll need the pitching to show up better than last weekend. The loser of this series is in serious danger of being banished to Michael Rapaport levels of irrelevance for the rest of the season.
It’s not a great sign for Canes Baseball when a 2-3 week seems to indicate a reason for optimism, but a series win in conference is no small matter. The main thing is whether Miami can build on this momentum, particularly at the plate (the offensive explosion may have masked some less-than-stellar pitching). Another 5 game week puts some additional strain on the bullpen, but the competition is somewhat of a step down from last week. These are series wins that Miami needs to pick up to get back in the postseason fight. I think they get it, going 2-1 over the weekend and splitting the midweek games versus Maine to go 3-2 overall.
Maine is really poor, much more so than FIU. And I do like both of the Canes’ midweek starters, so I think Miami sweeps those. I don’t know what to think of NC State, but I do like that they basically have no pitching. I don’t expect the Canes to continue to rake like they did last weekend, but there is more opportunity to build momentum at the plate. With that said, I don’t think this team is good enough to sweep anyone and the pitching was surprisingly bad last week. The Canes sweep Maine, take 2 of 3 in Raleigh, and go 4-1 on the week.