The Canes were just a hit or two away from getting a much-needed 4-0 week, but they instead settled for 3-1 with a crucial ACC series win over the Duke Blue Devils.
The week started off well for Miami against NAIA school St. Thomas. It took the Canes until the 5th inning to get anything going, but a few crooked innings from there led to a 14-2 Miami victory.
The weekend series (running Saturday to Monday) featured a bit of “Mark Light Magic,” a rare sight for Canes baseball fans this year. Miami was down 7-0 with only 1 hit on the scoreboard and just 9 outs remaining. But some big hits, including a bases-clearing double from Chris Barr, put the game back within reach at 7-4. Even then, the odds were stacked against Miami as they were still down 7-4 with 2 outs in the ninth inning. A two-run double from Randy Batista cut the deficit to 1, but Miami was down to its last strike with Johnny Ruiz at the plate. Ruiz hit one over the right-field fence for the walk-off win.
The momentum carried through to game 2, where the Canes took a 4-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back, winning 7-0 and clinching the series. With a chance to sweep on Monday night, Miami fell behind 2-0 early. They once again struggled to get anything going offensively, but managed to send the game to extra innings after a 2-run 8th inning tied the game. Unfortunately, Frankie Bartow was perhaps asked to stay out on the mound for too long, surrendering 3 runs in the 10th. Miami couldn’t respond, and lost 5-2. Nonetheless, Miami picked up a series win in conference, their first since early March.
Last week, we highlighted what the Canes needed to do to simply get on the bubble. We projected the Canes needed to win 2 out of 3 versus Duke, and beat St. Thomas. They did both of those things, but keep in mind that this is simply to get on the bubble. To actually make the NCAA Tournament, they need to overperform this path to the bubble. Here is this week’s updated chart:
This week, we had the Canes capping off a homestand with a loss against FGCU before travelling north to Pittsburgh, where they must take at least 2 out of 3. So there is ample opportunity to win 3 or 4 games this week and gain ground on the bubble.
Wed: Apr 12, 6:00 PM
Note: This game will have WVUM radio coverage and ESPN3 TV Coverage.
Since reaching the top 10 and beating the Canes two weeks ago, FGCU has really struggled. 2 consecutive series losses (to Jacksonville and Stetson) sandwiching 2 losses to FSU in the midweek. Now at 25-9, they are still a dangerous team with a dangerous lineup. Julio Gonzalez continues to pace the team with a .346 average, but the team hitting stats have definitely declined in the 14 days since these teams last saw each other.
Mario Leon will likely once again take the mound for the Eagles. He has a 3.03 ERA, but he struggled in his last outing against FSU. Miami will counter with Greg Veliz, who continues to see success in his midweek starting role.
With FGCU slipping a bit, and Miami coming off one of their better weeks this season, this is a prime chance for Miami to notch a decent RPI win for their resume.
Fri: Apr 14, 6:00 PM, Sat: Apr 15, 3:00 PM, Sun: Apr 16, 1:00 PM
Note: All games have WVUM radio coverage. TV coverage is on ESPN3.
Pitt is the one of the few ACC teams that rivals the Canes ineptitude at the plate, and it shows in their 14-15 (6-9 ACC) record. They are coming off a tough weekend in which they were swept in Charlottesville by UVA. Their ACC series wins have come against Duke and Virginia Tech (a sweep). Offensively, their team battering average of .223 is only slightly better than Miami’s, with nobody batting better than .258 (Alex Amos). They also only have 12 home runs as a team, and Nick Banman leads the team with 4.
The Panthers are around the middle of the ACC in terms of pitching stats, again not too dissimilar from Miami. Friday starter Matt Pidich (4.25 ERA) has not pitched well in his last two outings. Josh Mitchell (3.73 ERA) starts on Saturdays, and is the only lefty who has pitched for Pitt this season. Senior Sunday starter Josh Falk has the best ERA of the bunch (2.50), and leads the team by far in innings pitched. Pitt relies on 3-4 arms out of the bullpen (again, all right handers), with no clear cut option at closer.
All in all, this is a fairly middle-of-the-road team statistically, that is perhaps a bit better than their record indicates.
There were some encouraging signs from Miami against Duke, but the task now has to be piecing them together into some consistency, particularly at the plate. Miami cannot afford to drop a series against Pitt, as there are precious few teams in conference this year that struggle at the plate like the Canes do. I am also cautiously optimistic about Miami’s chances on Wednesday against an FGCU team that has not been playing to the standard it set earlier in the season. And against Pitt, I think that Miami has the edge in starting pitching, while the two offenses are basically equally bad. I think the Canes go 3-1 this week.
FGCU is slumping, so this is a great time for the Canes to pick up a win midweek against a good team. The Canes need to start stringing series wins together and I love this matchup against Pitt. I think the Canes pitching is better than the numbers. So they can shut down Pitt. This series does mirror Duke a bit, in that Pitt’s best pitcher goes Sunday, but Duke is a much better hitting team. I just don’t think the Canes are good enough to go 4-0, but it’s on the table this week. I’m not sure where the Canes lose this week, but they will at some point. Canes go 3-1, and win another ACC Series.