The Canes went 2-2 last week, staying in the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation (just the conversation, still a lot of work to do to even get on the bubble), but also completely blew an opportunity for a quality home win against FGCU.
For the second time this season, Gregory Veliz locked down FGCU, allowing 1 run in 5.2 innings before giving way to Andrew Cabezas. The Canes carried the 3-1 lead into the 7th inning, and with FGCU struggling to get anything going, looked to be cruising to victory. But then the defense reared its ugly head, and the Canes dropped not 1, but 2 pop-ups in the infield to allow 3 unearned runs to score. After a lengthy rain delay, the Canes did rally to tie the game but eventually felt 5-4. It was one of the more brutal losses of the season, as the Canes lost despite out-hitting FGCU 5-4.
Bad weather was forecast for Pittsburgh on Sunday, so the weekend schedule was shuffled. The Canes played a double-header on Friday, and completed the series on Saturday. In Game 1, the Canes repeatedly threatened, and repeatedly failed to bring runners home. Meanwhile, Jesse Lepore struggled immensely. Although technically all 5 runs he allowed were unearned due to an error early in the inning and the fact that all runs were allowed with 2 outs, Lepore did concede a triple, a double, a single, walk 2 batters, and hit another. With the Canes trailing heavily, and with a double-header looming, Jim Morris emptied the bullpen to try and buy innings. The Canes allowed 10 runs and fell in a blowout, 10-3. The story of the game was Pitt’s opportunistic hitting versus the Canes’ inability to come through. Miami had 3 runs on 9 hits, while Pitt came through with 10 runs on 12 hits.
Friday’s second game was all about the pitching for both teams. The Canes mustered 4 hits to Pitt’s 2. Jeb Bargfeldt was excellent, and backed up by Evan McKendry, Andrew Cabezas, and Frankie Bartow as the Canes shutout the Panthers. But Miami still needed at least 1 run, and got that when Edgar Michelangeli launched a solo HR in the 5th inning. The Canes won 1-0.
In Saturday’s finale, the Canes got another strong pitching performance from starter Michael Mediavilla. Mediavilla went 5.2 innings, allowing only 1 run, but was inexplicably pulled having only thrown 76 pitches. The cascading effect of that was that Bartow had to go for a 2-inning outing, something he has struggled with repeatedly. But more on that later. The Canes took an early lead in the first inning, but failed to put together multiple big innings with strikeouts and base running blunders. Pitt finally got a run across in the 5th. In the 7th, things got tense after Pitt accused Andrew Cabezas of doctoring the ball. This was in the middle of an at-bat after Pitt failed to get a bunt down. There was a lengthy delay which included the umpires searching Cabezas before play resumed. On the next pitch, Pitt ripped a single and Cabezas seemed to be unsettled. He continued to battle, allowing 1 run. With 1 out, Pitt came home on a grounder back to Cabezas and the Canes tagged him out. Once again, Pitt’s manager came out to complain, in an attempt to throw off Cabezas. It didn’t work, and the Canes carried a 1-run lead into the 8th, where Edgar Michelangeli launched another home run, this time 2 runs, and extended the lead. Frankie Bartow, in his second inning of work, got ripped, but a game winning double play allowed the Canes to escape with a 5-3 win, and a crucial road ACC series win.
Several trends emerged and continued this weekend:
- The Canes have finally had enough, and shuffled the rotation. The new rotation will be Bargsfeldt, Mediavilla, and Veliz, with McKendry going midweek for at least one week.
- For the second weekend in a row, Frankie Bartow was asked to go for a 2-out save in Game 3, and again struggled. The Canes got away with it this time, because of a slick double play and because of the larger lead, but this is probably something to note. The Canes would probably be better off leaving his saves to only 1 inning.
- Edgar Michelangeli was good against Duke, and outstanding against Pitt, not just the 2 HRs, but several other hits. Jim Morris has shuffled and re-shuffled his lineup multiple times (including Johnny Ruiz not playing at all this weekend), so we’ll need to see if Michelangeli gets moved back up the lineup. I’d leave him where he is at this point.
- Miami continues to make crippling errors. It cost them one game this week, and a chance to compete in another. If the defense isn’t cleaned up, this team is going nowhere.
- The Canes have to limit strikeouts. The critical situation strikeouts are killing run opportunities where even productive outs would be a huge plus.
We continue to highlight what the Canes need to do to be in the bubble conversation come Selection Monday. This week, they continued to do exactly what we projected, which included winning 2 of 3 at Pitt while losing to FGCU.
Of note, the Canes’ RPI is in the 70s, which is not nearly good enough. But with some big opponents still on the schedule (FSU and UVA), they can improve that into an acceptable range. The key for that, though, is to avoid bad home losses in the midweek. Our projection this week is for them to win the midweek against FAU (again, critical if they are going to get the RPI up since the RPI has penalties for bad home losses) and then drop 2 of 3 against FSU. But they do have the opportunity to win this FSU series, and it’s that sort of thing that can turbocharge their bid to avoid being the first Miami team to miss the NCAA tournament in over 40 years.
Wed: Apr 19, 6:00 PM
Note: This game will have WVUM radio coverage and ESPN3 TV Coverage.
FAU is Conference USA’s top team, and definitely a threat to disrupt the Canes. But Miami has oddly had success against FAU this year, having won the previous 2 outings, including one game in Boca Raton. Gregory Veliz started both outing against FAU, and allowed 3 earned runs total in 9.2 innings over the 2 games. But performances like that are why he is in the weekend rotation now. Evan McKendry had a few strong midweek starts, so let’s hope that continues.
FAU used multiple approaches against the Canes this year. In the first meeting, they threw Marc Stewart who went 5 strong innings before giving way. FAU carried a one run lead into the 7th, when Miami scored 4 against the bullpen to win the game. In the second meeting, FAU went with a whole staff approach, as the Canes bashed the Owls for 6 runs in the first 2 innings, controlled the whole game, then gave up 4 runs in the 9th inning to hang on for a 2-run win. Sean Lasban, the pitcher the Canes battered in Game 2, has been going in the midweek, so expect him to start here, and his ERA is over 6, so hopefully the Canes can get to him. At the plate, FAU has more pop than Miami, so watch out for Esteban Puerta, David Miranda, and Tyler Frank to go deep. If it gets into a save situation, Cameron Ragsdale with a 3.09 ERA has all 7 saves.
FAU is a good team, and certainly a threat to win here, but this is a game the Canes really need to have.
Fri: Apr 21, 7:00 PM, Sat: Apr 22, 7:00 PM, Sun: Apr 23, 1:00 PM
Note: All games have WVUM radio coverage. TV coverage is on ESPN3.
And here come the Seminoles. FSU has fallen off this year. Not to Miami’s level, but still off. And that is due to struggles in ACC Play. FSU has failed to sweep Boston College and dropped series to Virginia Tech and NC State at home. The Seminoles were favorites in the ACC Atlantic coming into the season, but are instead pretty firmly planted in 4th place. They are still in good shape NCAA Tournament wise because unlike Miami, they didn’t implode out of conference, so despite having the same ACC record as Miami, FSU is much better from an overall record and RPI standpoint. FSU also had the Saturday to Monday schedule last week, so they are on a bit of a shorter week. They are also coming off a huge series win over Clemson.
FSU has had a very consistent rotation, so I wouldn’t expect them to deviate from it this week. Cole Sands (5-2, 4.60 ERA) should go Friday, Tyler Holton (4-1, 2.47 ERA) Saturday, and Drew Parrish (3-2, 5.08 ERA) Sunday. Drew Carlton is their best bullpen arm and closer, with an ERA of 1.20. But they’ll also deploy Carlton for multiple innings. They have 3 middle of the road relievers to look at, with ERAs between 3 and 5, but Carlton is the standout. Overall, FSU is slightly worse on the mound than the Canes.
At the plate, Miami is still the ACC’s worst hitting team, but FSU, traditionally a power hitting team, is struggling as well, around 10th (out of 14) in most statistical hitting categories. But the challenging thing will be the long ball. Not in terms of team volume (FSU is 8th in the ACC in Home Runs) but in terms of the individual players that can go yard. FSU has 5 players with 4 or more HRs. So throughout the lineup, Canes’ pitchers will have to be careful. And especially careful with Rhett Aplin and Quincy Nieporte. Aplin leads the team in batting average and is tied in home runs with Nieporte. While Nieporte’s batting average of .285 doesn’t really jump out at you, what does is his RBI total. He has a knack for big hits and his team leading 41 RBIs is good for 5th in the ACC.
Overall, this matchup is fairly even and Miami does have an opportunity here to get the ACC record pointed the right direction and notch some wins that will help the RPI. Losing this series won’t kill the Canes’ chances, but eventually they do need to make a move and do something that is unexpected from a positive standpoint.
Missed opportunities continue to be the trend of this season. While it’s good that the Canes picked up another ACC series win, the midweek loss to FGCU will sting as a chance to make up the gap to bubble teams in RPI. As for this week, while I agree with the decision to move Greg Veliz to the weekend role, it does increase my trepidation with picking a Miami win on Wednesday night. That said, Evan McKendry has pitched well in his two starts this year against Maine and FIU. Can the Canes give him run support? I’m not so sure. FSU is coming off of their best series of the year, taking 2 of 3 from top-5 ranked Clemson, including 3 strong performances at the plate. Perhaps the reshuffled rotation injects some life into the Canes, but the fact remains that the Miami are due for at least one stinker at the plate per weekend. If they can do just that, and limit the abjectly terrible offensive performances to just one night, the Canes have a chance to steal this series. But we can’t just keep blindly hoping for things to happen. There is no reshuffling or momentum swing that can turn this Miami offense into something worthy of postseason play. I think our hopes of extending the streak end this week, with Miami going 1-3.
This is probably the Canes best chance at getting a quality series win. The only other opportunity is at Virginia, a much taller order. The next 2 weeks are against BC and BCC, so if the Canes can win this series, they can string together 5 series win in a row. I like the shuffling of the weekend rotation. The Canes will have a chance to compete in every game this week, which is a major change. The Canes have won 2 Friday ACC games by scoring 10 runs and 9 runs in those 2 games. And for this team, that is obviously going to be rare. Miami will have to win low scoring games, and I think they can do some of that. At home, in a rivalry, it will be someone winning 2 of 3. But I think the Canes get it done, and also handle FAU in the midweek. Canes go 3-1, and win another ACC Series.