The Canes did not gain any ground this week, finishing 2-2. For a while it appeared that it could have gone even worse. So while Miami salvaged the week with a walk-off win on Saturday night and a decisive victory on Sunday, this season is showing some of the same warning signs that appeared last year.
It started with a midweek loss to FAU. Mediavilla struggled to start, giving up 4 first inning runs. Miami fought back but couldn’t close the gap completely, losing 5-4. Unfortunately, he has not shown any signs of rebounding from last year’s struggles, at least as a starter.
In a series that got changed from 4 games to 3, Miami got a great outing from Jeb Bargfeldt on Friday, but the offense let him down throughout the evening, only managing 4 hits in total. Despite this, the Canes held a 1-0 lead in the 8th inning, only to have the bullpen (chiefly, Andrew Cabezas) implode. Maine put up 6 runs in the final 2 innings to win 6-1.
Saturday’s game went deep into the night, with Miami winning 7-6 after 15 innings. Miami blew a 2 run lead in the 9th (again, Cabezas) and squandered many opportunities to win earlier in extra innings. That said, they do get credit for battling back from down one twice in extra innings. An Alex Toral single got Miami the win.
Evan McKendry led the charge on Sunday, and Miami gave him some run support to earn a comfortable 7-1 victory, ensuring Miami did not drop the series.
So where does Miami stand after three weeks of play? Well, they are still under .500 (5-6), despite playing all but one of those games at their home field. One could argue it’s still too soon to start comparing stats between teams, but Miami’s .241 team batting average is worst in the ACC. Injuries to Danny Reyes and Michael Amditis have certainly made issues worse, but the Canes still have significantly more strikeouts than any other team in conference, too. Canes fans have seen subpar offenses on the diamond recently, but those teams have often been boosted by strong pitching and solid defense. Well, Miami is only middle of the pack on the mound, and has the lowest fielding percentage (and most errors) in the ACC. Miami needs to get it going, and fast.
Wed: Mar 7, 7:00 PM
Note: Radio coverage on 790 the ticket in Miami.
This is the first game of a cross-town home-and-home with FIU. The Panthers came into the season with high expectations after a top-15 recruiting class, but have had their own struggles thus far. They will also enter this matchup at 5-6.
There’s a lot of pop in this FIU lineup, with 14 homers already this year (Jose Garcia leads the team with 4). There’s also two-way star Logan Allen, the C-USA Freshman of the Year last season. He leads the team with a .375 batting average, and also got the start at pitcher on Sunday afternoon.
Nick MacDonald got the start in the first of two midweek games against Bethune Cookman, so we expect him to go again here. Through 10 innings this year, he has yet to give up a run.
Fri: Mar 9, 7:00 PM, Sat: Mar 10, 7:00 PM, Sun: Mar 11, 12:00 PM
Note: All games have WVUM radio coverage. TV coverage is on ESPN3.
Miami opens conference play against Notre Dame, hoping to have the same success against the Irish that the football team did last fall. They are 6-4 to start the year, but took 2 of 3 from LSU in Baton Rouge to open the season. But they have also dropped games to Purdue, Incarnate Word, and Seattle University. So it’s been up and down for the Irish to start the year.
The Notre Dame starting pitching has been knocked around quite a bit this year. Their rotation appears to be Scott Tully (4.05 ERA) on Fridays, followed by Tommy Sheehan (7.15 ERA) and Cameron Junker (6.52 ERA) on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Tully and Sheehan have struggled with their command, both having issued more walkouts than strikeouts. Though, given how this season has gone, they’ll look much better against the Canes lineup this weekend.
The Notre Dame offense has rescued its pitching staff more than a few times this year, averaging more than 7 runs per game. Nick Podkul leads the way with a .432 average, and is one of five Irish hitters with an average above .300. The slugger of the team is Eric Gilgenbach, who is only hitting .222, but has 4 of Notre Dame’s 6 homers.
The Canes cannot afford to keep dropping midweek games, which often tank a team’s RPI and may have been one of the main reasons Miami found itself on the wrong side of the bubble last year. FIU is certainly no pushover, as Merv Melendez has recruited well locally and put together a team that is expected to be among the contenders for a C-USA title. Given Mediavilla’s struggles as a starter this year, my confidence in a win here is pretty low. Moving to the weekend, the question is whether the Canes struggling offense can keep pace with Notre Dame. Their pitchers, particularly the starters, have not had a great year so far. But injuries have forced Jim Morris to shuffle players in and out, looking for a combination to click. To this point, it hasn’t been very successful, but they have a chance against a rotation that issues a lot of free bases. Overall, I can’t see this week being much better than last week, especially given the stronger weekend competition. I expect Miami to have a 2-2 week, dropping their midweek game to FIU but winning the weekend series.
This team is a calamity in the field and seems to lack confidence. Last week, I thought the win over UF would give them some confidence, but it didn’t. If I’m grasping at straws, I’d say the come back win in the marathon game against Maine, followed by the strong performance in the finale, shows that the Canes have turned a corner. I just don’t know. There are so many routine mistakes (dropping fly balls, horrific throws, absurdly striking out looking repeatedly) that it’s hard to see a winning record this week. This is one of the more frustrating starts to a season I can remember, and looks like a mirror image of last year. Which means lose the midweek, win 2 out of 3 on the weekend, when a sweep is needed, and finish the week 2-2.