Miami finally won a midweek game again, but nonetheless ended the week with a 2-2 record after dropping the series to Duke. The Canes now sit at 9-10 for the year, and an even 3-3 in conference play.
Before any games were played, the Canes announced a reshuffled pitching rotation. Freshman Daniel Federman moved up from the bullpen to start the midweek game against UCF, replacing Michael Mediavilla. Evan McKendry’s start was moved up to Saturday in place of Greg Veliz, while Andrew Cabezas was given the final starting spot for Sunday.
Federman did well with his opportunity, only giving up one earned run in his five innings (3 runs total, thanks to defensive errors). An RBI-groundout in the 6th inning, which followed a Freddie Zamora triple, proved the decisive run in a 4-3 win for Miami.
Friday night’s matchup with Duke was another back-and-forth affair. The Canes outhit the Blue Devils 10-6, but poor situational hitting (they stranded five runners in scoring position) and 9 more strikeouts left Miami on the wrong side of the 4-3 scoreline against Duke.
McKendry didn’t pitch poorly after being elevated to the Saturday starting role, but he gave up 3 runs in the first inning and never got any support from his offense. Miami notched another 10 Ks at the plate and never really threatened to take the lead, dropping the game 4-1.
The runs finally came on Sunday, and Cabezas had an excellent outing in his first game back as a starter. A dominating 8-2 win allowed the Canes to limit the damage in Durham, but as we continue to harp on, Miami will start needing to get some 3 or 4 win weeks to put themselves in place to make the postseason. The week ahead does not provide an ideal opportunity for that, however.
Wed: Mar 21, 6:00 PM
Note: Radio coverage on WVUM, TV coverage on ESPN3.
Game 2 of the 3-game season series with FAU will be in Coral Gables. The Canes lost the first meeting 5-4 in February. Since then, FAU dropped 3 of 4 to Oregon, but went on a 7-game winning streak before dropping a game Sunday to Old Dominion.
The Owls had two midweek games last week, starting Marc Stewart (0.00 ERA through 7.1 IP) and Nick Prather (9.0 ERA through 14 IP). Prather got the start against Miami a 3 weeks ago, but obviously hasn’t had an excellent season so far. While not a strong lineup from top to bottom, FAU can put up numbers in a hurry, with multiple home run threats on the team. Daniel Federman, making just his second start, will have his hands full here.
Fri: Mar 23, 7:00 PM, Sat: Mar 24, 7:00 PM, Sun: Mar 25, 1:00 PM
Note: All games have WVUM radio coverage. TV coverage is on ESPN3.
So far this season, Virginia has not performed like the top-15 team that we have seen over the past 10+ years. They sit at 13-7 for the season, and 3-3 in ACC play. They lost two of three to open conference play at Duke, and followed that up by taking two of three from Boston College this past weekend. They’ve also lost games to UCF, Virginia Military Institute, Eastern Kentucky, and Yale.
Part of the issue for the Cavaliers so far this season has been their pitching. Usually impressive, UVA has a 4.04 team ERA, which puts them in the bottom half of the conference. Their weekend rotation – Derek Casey, Daniel Lynch, and Evan Sperling, in that order – have been fine, with ERAs between 3 and 4.1. But their bullpen has struggled at times, with closer Andrew Abbott even featuring an ERA of 5.09. It’s worth pointing out that this is a pitching staff that gets a lot of strikeouts – 226 through 20 games, in fact. Given that Miami is striking out an average of 10.5 times per game themselves, that’s bad news for the Miami offense.
Virginia has been above-average at the plate this year. What they lack in power (just 9 home runs, only BC and Miami have less in conference with 6), they make up for with a solid batting average (.284) and on-base percentage (.390). They are also 30/38 on steal attempts this year, showing that they are committed to the small-ball approach. Andy Weber, Caleb Knight, and Nate Elkhoff are the names to watch out for in the middle of the lineup. Weber and Elkhoff lead the team in average, and the three of them have combined to hit 7 of the team’s 9 homers.
Last week looked pretty difficult on paper, and this week is arguably just as tough. But Miami has 4 home games here, and they cannot afford to keep dropping games in Coral Gables, because it has an added effect on the RPI. I think the pitching switch overall paid off for Miami, even if it didn’t show itself in the overall record for the week. And at the plate, some of the freshman are starting to hit a bit better, but are being let down by veterans like Romy Gonzalez and Michael Burns. I sound like a broken record, but it’s pretty imperative that Miami takes at least 3 of 4 this week, if not actually sweeping. But think that’s highly unlikely. I’ll say the Canes maintain the status quo, with another 2-2 week. A midweek loss followed by a ACC series win, if they’re fortunate.
The pitching change last week worked, especially since the Canes won a tough midweek game. And I have confidence in Federman to continue that this week. I still have zero confidence, despite Sunday’s outburst, in the Canes’ hitters ability to not strikeout. So the midweek game will be close, but I think at home the Canes pull it out. On the weekend, Virginia and Miami have had similar starts to the season (losing a series to Duke, winning a series against an ACC bottom feeder). And both desperately need this series. This could be for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, particularly for Miami, which absolutely must win their home conference series. The 2 areas of concerns will continue to be errors and strikeouts. And I expect those to show up once again, except this time, I think Miami finds its way around those mistakes 2 out of 3 games, and takes 3 of 4 in a huge week, taking the midweek game over FAU and an ACC series over Virginia.