Miami went 2-1 last week, with a rain-out on Sunday leaving fans on both sides of the Miami-FSU rivalry feeling unfulfilled. Miami didn’t do anything to harm its NCAA Tournament chances, but it remains well off the bubble, with time running out on the season.
The week started out successfully, with Miami handling FAU comfortably, 8-2. The Canes put up a crooked inning in the 3rd, Evan McKendry pitched 6 strong innings, and Miami picked up a crucial win over a decent FAU team.
On Friday, against the Seminoles, Miami jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, and held onto it until the 5th inning. There, Jeb Bargfeldt gave up 4 runs on a sacrifice fly, and an eventual 3-run shot over the left field wall. The Canes had a few chances to bring the game back, but FSU responded each time to keep Miami at bay. In the end, Miami fell 6-3.
Early in game 2, things looked bleak for Miami, falling behind 3-0 early from a solo HR in the second and a 2-RBI single an inning later. The truly unexpected happened in the bottom of the third when Michael Burns gave Miami the lead after a grand slam, just his second home run of the year. Michael Mediavilla settled in and had a strong outing from there, striking out 10 FSU batters through 6.2 innings. Andrew Cabezas gave up a solo shot in the 8th to make it 4-4, which ultimately sent this game to extra innings. There, in the bottom of the 9th, the FSU shortstop threw away a routine groundball, allowing Brandon Gali to score from second and start the celebrations on the 5-4 victory.
Rain was always in the forecast for Sunday, and the game only got through 2 innings before going into a delay. FSU had a 2-0 lead, but with a rain-soaked field and the ACC curfew an imminent threat, the two managers agreed to call the game. Miami might feel some relief from that, given they were down early, but the Canes need the chance to pick up as many wins as possible.
So how does all of this affect Miami’s chances of getting on the bubble? They picked up the win against FAU that we projected, splitting the series with FSU put the Canes just one game behind .500. The Canes RPI actually dipped a bit, down to 81, but they have a chance to improve that with a strong showing this week.
Tue: Apr 25, 7:00 PM, Wed: Apr 26, 6:00 PM
Note: Both games will have WVUM radio coverage. The second game will be on ESPN3.
Miami gets two more chances at its intracity rival Panthers after losing both games played in March. Those games showed that this FIU team is no slouch, and they enter the week with a 25-16 record. Miami will hope that Jesse Lepore can settle back into the midweek role that provided him so much success last year, as he will start one of these two games. Evan McKendry, who has pitched well in his starts this year, will start the other. We originally figured Miami should hope for a split here to stay on target for bubble aspirations, but given the rain out on Sunday, Miami really needs to take both games.
Fri: Apr 28, 2:30 PM, Sat: Apr 29, 1:30 PM, Sun: Apr 30, 1:00 PM
Note: All games have WVUM radio coverage. TV coverage is on ESPN3.
Boston College, by record, is the worst team in the ACC this year. They have failed to continue the momentum from their surprise run to the Super Regionals last season, where they took the Canes to a decisive third game with a trip to Omaha on the line. That said, they are on a bit of a hot streak, coming off a sweep of NC State and taking 2 of 3 from Duke the weekend before that. Fans should note the game times in Chestnut Hill, where the Eagles play in something akin to a little league baseball stadium, which has no floodlights.
The theme this weekend is fairly straight forward — which team sucks more at the plate? BC has Miami beat in terms of team average (.246 to .212), but the Eagles lack any long-ball threat (just 6 home runs as a team). With two anemic lineups, the difference will likely be found on the mound. Miami has the advantage here, and while Greg Veliz still has not seen a full start against ACC competition, this BC lineup is on par, or worse, than those he was used to in the midweek. Meanwhile, all 3 starters for Boston College have ERAs above 4. Some of that is mitigated by the presence of some solid arms in the bullpen. Donovan Casey leads the team with 4 saves and has a 2.0 ERA through 13 appearances. Still, BC has a team ERA of 5.26, 3rd lowest in the conference. When you account for only games against ACC opponents, that ERA falls to 6.82, easily the worst in conference. Miami is not good enough to take any teams for granted this year, but even this, the weakest Canes team in decades, should win this series comfortably.
Well, these Canes surpassed my expectations, taking the midweek game against FAU and splitting with FSU to keep the ship afloat, if only for a bit longer. This week is a big chance to take a step forward, as there’s a legitimate chance to string together 5 wins this week. Yes, the Canes dropped 2 to FIU earlier this year, one of which wasn’t even close. But I feel good about reshuffling Lepore to the midweek, where he excelled last year. Something tells me Miami can win both of those games. And then at the weekend, BC is as good a chance as any to pick up the first conference sweep of the year. In fact, given that Boston College’s RPI is in the 100s, it’s simply a must-sweep for Miami. Truth be told, I’m not confident the Canes can string together 5 straight games in which they score more than 1-2 runs, let alone 5 wins. Somewhere along the line, Miami drops one this week and finishes 4-1.
This is really it for the Canes. Splitting the FSU series kept the Canes above water, but the RPI is shockingly bad, and it’s bad because of 2 losses to FIU, 2 losses to Dartmouth, and 2 losses to FGCU. Miami not only needs to sweep this week, they need to run off 9 wins in a row heading into the UVA series. The Canes have 2 against FIU, 3 against BC, 3 against BCC, then 1 against UCF. Those are all games the Canes should be favored in, and they can’t afford to lose games they are favored in at this point. So, can they go 5-0 this week? There are 2 big question marks for me on that. One is how Jesse Lepore mentally copes with his demotion. He clearly can be lights out in midweek, but after being hammered around on Friday’s, is he mentally ready to throw against FIU. And the second is Gregory Veliz. Veliz was great in the midweek, but couldn’t find the zone at all against FSU. The Canes got away with it when the game was cancelled. Now, first start against FSU might have had him amped up, so hopefully against BC he will be a little more settled. We know the Canes won’t bash any pitching, but if they can get good pitching they can win all games. If I trust one thing in this program right now, it’s JD Arteaga. Miami goes 5-0 and keeps their postseason dreams alive.