This Week in Canes Baseball

Adam
Clarke
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Vishnu
Parasuraman
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Miami saved their best week for last, with a 4-0 week that culminated with an eventful 3-0 sweep of Virginia Tech, the ‘Canes first sweep of the season. There’s a chance it’s too little, too late, and we both remain highly skeptical that Miami could earn at an-large bid. Though their strong finish in ACC play might give them a chance, per D1Baseball’s Kendall Rogers:

Miami got an excellent performance out of Evan McKendry (7 IP, 2 H, 10K) on Tuesday, earning the team a 5-1 victory over FGCU. Rain on Thursday evening forced a Friday doubleheader, but the change didn’t effect Jeb Bargfeldt, who went 7 innings and allowed just 1 run in a 4-2 win. The quality pitching continued that evening when Greg Veliz went 8 innings, striking out 13(!). The final game on Saturday went to extra innings at 2-2, where Frankie Bartow gave up a 3-run home run in the 10th. In a rare show of resilience, Miami bounced back in the bottom of the frame. Senior Johnny Ruiz, in his last game at the Light, got things started with 2-RBI single. After a walk, it was the team’s walk-off king Edgar Michaelangeli’s opportunity. Edgar hit a 3-run bomb over the fence to give Miami the 7-5 win on the last day of the regular season.

So what can we take away from this week, going into the ACC Tournament? Well, Miami’s starting pitching had a great week. They’ll need that to continue if they want to get out of pool play. Next, we have some major concerns about Frankie Bartow’s continued struggles to close out games. The Canes offense is still pretty poor, so there’s little margin for error in the late innings. Finally, there’s the hope that this team is ready to play its baseball with everything on the line. Surely they do not want the stigma of being the team that broke the illustrious streak. The 5-run 10th inning might be a sign that the Canes aren’t quite done with their season.

ACC Tournament

There is a new format this year, with 12 teams making the tournament instead of 8. That means that only 2 games are guaranteed (previously, it had been 3), and that there is a semifinal and final round. There are 4 pools of 3 teams each, with the winner of each pool advancing to the semifinals. The Pool A winner will meet the Pool D winner, while the Pool B winner will meet the Pool D winner. Of important note, because there are only 3 teams and it is round-robin, there is only one way for a tie to occur, and that is a 3-way tie at 1-1. In that instance, the highest seeded team will advance. For the Canes, that means that Wake Forest has the tiebreaker in Pool C. Miami has to win both games to advance.

The Canes are in a pool with Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. They open the tournament playing in the first game. If they win the pool and advance to the semifinals, they’ll likely see North Carolina, but could also see NC State or Boston College. Beyond that, it could be any team from Pools A or D, with host Louisville being the largest threat. Our opinion is that the only way the Canes make the NCAA Tournament is by winning the ACC Tournament. But, I think there are gradients to this, and this is where I would say things stand:

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There is some chance if the Canes at least make the finals, but there are just more teams worthy at this point, given the terrible out of conference performance by Miami this year. In particular, if this ends poorly, the Canes will look back with frustration at the game they lost when FIU tagged up from 2nd base and the game they lost when they dropped multiple pop-ups against FGCU.

Georgia Tech
Tue: May 23, 11:00 AM
Note: All ACC Tournament games have WVUM radio coverage. TV coverage can be found on Regional Sports Networks and Fox Sports GO or ESPN3, depending on blackouts in your area.

The Canes will be the first game of the tournament, matching up with 10th seeded Georgia Tech. When these teams met back in early March, the Canes took the series at home 2-1, with the loss coming in extra innings. Most notably, that was easily Miami’s best offensive weekend of the season, putting up 32 runs over the 3 game stretch, including 17 in the Sunday rubber match. It turns out that wasn’t Miami being particularly fortunate against the Yellow Jackets. Rather, it was indicative of Georgia Tech’s season, as they ended with the second-worst team ERA (5.41) in the conference. Given the relatively short rest from the weekend games to tournament play, it’s hard to say exactly who will start on the mound. From last weekend’s series against Virginia, Xzavion Curry (6-4, 5.52 ERA) got the start on Thursday. In recent midweek games, Tech has used a “wholestaff” approach, with nobody going for more than a few innings.

Pitching was a weak spot for the Yellow Jackets, but it was balanced out by a pretty potent lineup at the plate. Georgia Tech has power throughout the lineup, with 7 hitters with at least 6 home runs this season (3 with 10+). Wade Bailey’s .347/.542/.420 offensive splits are very impressive, as are Joey Bart’s 13 home runs. But overall, this is a lineup of sluggers — they are among the conference’s leaders in strikeouts, but if they connect, they’ll put up a big number very fast. And to make things trickier for Miami, odds are high that it will be freshman Evan McKendry on the mound while the weekend starters rest. McKendry has been very impressive in midweek performances the last half of the season, but this is a high-pressure situation against a strong offensive team.

Wake Forest
Thu: May 25, 3:00 PM
Note: All ACC Tournament games have WVUM radio coverage. TV coverage can be found on Regional Sports Networks and Fox Sports GO or ESPN3, depending on blackouts in your area.

If the Canes manage to get through Georgia Tech, the game against Wake Forest could be decisive in Miami’s last chance to score an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The 3rd seed went 38-17 this season, with a 19-11 conference record that included 2 wins over Miami in early April. The bright spot for the Canes is that in their lone 5-1 win against the Demon Deacons, Jeb Bargfeldt was on the mound and went 7 innings, striking out 10 and allowing just 3 hits. Bargfeldt would likely get the start here as well, but the question will be if he can hold down one of the ACC’s top offenses twice in one year. Wake led the ACC with an absurd 93 home runs, almost triple Miami’s output (32). 5 players have hit 12+, with Johnny Aiello and Gavin Sheets hitting 18 and 19, respectively. Yes, they also strike out a lot and ground into more double plays than most, but they still manage to have a team on-base percentage of .405. It’s a big ask, but Bargfeldt has had his best performances when going up against the ACC’s top hitting teams (Wake, Virginia, and Virginia Tech).

Presuming that Wake throws their best pitcher on Wednesday to face Georgia Tech, Miami would probably go up against Donnie Sellers (3-5, 4.34 ERA). The right-hander made the transition from team closer to the starting rotation this year with mixed results. Alternatively, the Canes could see Parker Dunshee, who blanked the Canes earlier in the season. Overall, Wake Forest’s pitching isn’t bad — their team ERA of 4.14 is average in the conference — but they do have an excellent closer in Griffin Roberts (1.60 ERA, 8 saves) to shut the game down late.

Predictions

Clarke

In some ways, Miami gets to play the same team twice, with Wake basically being an upgraded version of Georgia Tech in all aspects. The tournament schedule broke pretty well for the Canes, and in a small sample size situation, Miami has a decent chance here. Outside of one game against Virginia two weeks ago, their pitching has been doing well — especially the starting rotation since shifting the order to Bargfeldt, Veliz, and Lepore. I like the matchup with McKendry against a Georgia Tech team that only won 2 ACC series all year. But I’m just not confident of the Canes chances against Wake Forest. Bargfeldt shutting down one of the nation’s top offenses twice in a year is a big ask, and Miami’s offense is simply not good enough to keep up. Theoretically, Miami would be the more motivated team here, playing for its post-season life against a team that is comfortably in, probably as a regional host. But that’s not enough for me to pick Miami to win their pool. The ‘Canes bubble bursts with a streak-busting 1-1 week.

Parasuraman

I like the way the bracket worked out for Miami. Not only do they get the weaker opponent first, but they have the advantage of not having to play consecutive days unless they make the final. McKendry worries me a bit here. He’s been stellar this year in the midweek, but his first ACC start in the ACC Tournament in a must-win game is a big ask. And he’s a power pitcher, which means GT might be able to turn on some things. With that said, in a battle of anemic offense versus anemic rotation, the Canes offense came out in front earlier this year. I think they out-hit GT at worst. Jeb Bargfeldt is the only thing I trust on this entire team right now. I think he’ll shut down the Wake Forest offense, again, and that Miami goes through as pool winners. From there, it actually sets up nicely for the Canes, as Veliz can go in the semifinal and Lepore in the final, with the entire staff available. But ultimately, there is too much wrong with this team. Against a good UNC team, I think either the starting pitching goes missing, too many errors pile up, the bats don’t show up, or the team blows a late lead due to closer issues. The Canes win the pool, but lose in the semifinal round, going 2-1, and the streak ends. 

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