The Canes returned to the diamond, and once again went 2-2, staying one game under .500 for the season. The good news is they picked up an ACC series win. They also played better than they had been. The bad news…they once again lost a midweek game, and the strikeouts are essentially knee-capping the entire program at this point.
The week started down the road at FIU. Michael Mediavilla struggled early and the Canes trailed 3-0. But he settled down and a 6th inning rally saw the Canes tie the game. But in what was a continuation of a chronic issue, Miami struck out twice with runners on 2nd and 3rd to end the inning when they should have at the very least taken the lead, if not much more. FIU eventually rallied back and won the game 5-3. But the headline was simple…Miami struck out a whopping 14 times.
The weekend series against Notre Dame was changed so that Saturday would be a double-header. Jeb Bargfeldt went on Friday, and was brilliant, shutting out ND. Bargfeldt went 7.2 innings, and Cooper Hammond finished from there. The Canes won 3-0 thanks to 2 runs in the 2nd inning, and an insurance run in the 7th. But the strikeouts were still a major issue, and the Canes fanned 11 times.
In Saturday’s first game, Evan McKendry put in another fine performance. This time the Canes’ bats did explode (and they only struck out 4 times). McKendry and Cabezas shut out ND, and the Canes coasted to a 9-0 win.
In the final game, with the Canes’ desperately needing a sweep, everything went the way it has been for 2 years. A combination of untimely pitching, strikeouts, and abhorrent errors saw the Canes lose 9-5. Miami only allowed 5 earned runs (2 from starter Greg Veliz and 3 from the struggling Andrew Cabezas). The other 4 runs were unearned. Miami did rally from an early deficit to knot the game at 5, but ND pulled away late, and the Canes were unable to respond, striking out 12 times to fall to 2-1 in the ACC and 7-8 overall.
This week will see a significant step up in competition. The Canes travel to Orlando to play the extremely good Central Florida Knights before heading to Durham to play at Duke.
Wed: Mar 14, 6:30 PM
Note: Radio coverage on WVUM in Miami.
UCF is the toughest midweek opponent the Canes will play this year. The Knights are off to a hot start, with a win over Virginia and 2 midweek wins over Florida. They also have taken care of business against lesser opponents, and have a 13-3 overall record. They’ll play Bradley on Tuesday before welcoming the Canes on Wednesday.
If UCF uses the same pitchers in midweek that they used at UF, the Canes should see Joe Sheridan, a sophomore Lefty that was a Freshman All-American. Sheridan has 17 strikeouts in a little over 18 innings this year, so expect the Canes to fan early and often. Sheridan generally goes 5-6 innings, so the Canes will also get into the UCF bullpen. If it gets to a save situation, Garrett Westberg should get the call. He has 2 saves and an ERA of 1.29. Overall, UCF has several pitchers capable of striking out batters, so look out.
The Canes will likely still go with Michael Mediavilla, who has not been great this year. But as a midweek pitcher, giving you 5-6 innings and allowing 3 or so runs in that time is not bad. It is for a senior who was the ace of a team that went to Omaha, but the Canes don’t really have a better midweek option at this point, unless they want to cannibalize the bullpen and start Daniel Federman (NOTE: The Canes have indeed decided to start Federman). Either way, the Canes will need to find some hitting, and with Michael Amditis yet to return, and Daniel Reyes on the shelf for a while, they’ll continue to need to find new ways to generate offense. The re-introduction of Hunter Tackett helped this week, but they’ll need a lot more. UCF is heavily favored in this matchup.
Fri: Mar 16, 6:00 PM, Sat: Mar 17, 1:00 PM, Sun: Mar 18, 12:30 PM
Note: All games have WVUM radio coverage. TV coverage is on ESPN3.
The Canes hit the road in the ACC for the first time this year. The Blue Devils are on fire this year, and might be one of the ACC’s top teams. They started the season losing 2 of 3 to an extremely strong (and highly ranked) Vanderbilt team on the road. Since then, they have gone 11-1, including winning 2 of 3 from one of the conference favorites, UVA, last weekend.
The rotation for Duke should be Adam Laskey, Ryan Day, and Mitch Stallings. There is bad news and worse news. All 3 pitchers have low ERAs, ranging from 3.18 to 3.66. But the worse news is the strikeouts. All are around a strikeout an inning, with Stallings actually averaging more than a strikeout an inning. So expect a lot of Canes strikeouts. Out of the bullpen, Duke has several arms they can go to, but look out in particular for closer Ethan DeCaster. DeCaster has not allowed an earned run this year and can extend out, sometimes going as long as 3 innings in a stint. Most of the frequent arms out of the bullpen have low ERAs as well.
At the plate, Duke has a very consistent lineup, and bats .252 as a team. Joey Loperfido is their best hitter, and bats .362, with the tie for the team lead with 12 RBI. Zack Kone also bats over .300 and has 11 RBI. There are several other hitters that bat near .300. Another name to watch out for which should be familiar to South Florida audiences is Griffin Conine, son of Jeff Conine. Griffin only bats .241, but leads Duke in HRs with 3 and also has 12 RBI, so he could change games even if his average is low. In the field, they average an error per game.
Overall, Miami will need brilliant starting pitching, timely hitting, and clean play in the field. So basically, they need to play like a different team.
We keep talking about Miami needing to win at least 3 games per week to get their heads back above water in the big picture chase for the postseason. Winning their first ACC series would seemingly indicate progress towards that, but when every weekend series victory is accompanied by a poor showing in the midweek, it feels like the Canes are just running in place. This week brings the additional challenge of a top midweek opponent (with a young coach that is rapidly on the rise – where did he go to school again?) that is coming off big wins over UF. Given Miami’s recent performances in these spots, it’s hard to see them coming up with a victory here. I’m not 100% sold on Duke as a upper-level ACC team this year, and I don’t think they are good enough offensively. I would expect a low-scoring series, and whichever team gets the most out of their starters will have a big edge here. So far this year, Bargfeldt and McKendry have proven to be pretty reliable. I’ll predict Miami gets the series win. A nice ACC road performance, no doubt, but another 2-2 week that keeps the Canes under .500 for the year.
Miami is just not a good team right now. And frankly, both UCF and Duke have proven to be better teams than Miami. We can hope something turns around, but based on the season thus far, it would be a complete homer pick to take Miami over UCF. In particular, Miami has been weak in the midweek games, so I’m taking UCF there. On the weekend, Duke is coming off a series win over UVA, I can’t imagine the Miami we’ve seen winning a series at Duke. I’m honestly torn between picking Duke to sweep or just win 2 out of 3. Also, going below .500 in a home heavy schedule and now having to make up ground on the road is a tall order. I’ll go conservative here and say the Canes go 1-3, managing to steal a game off of Duke, but this is more likely to be an 0-4 week than for the Canes to actually win the series.