The Canes were a complete collapse in the midweek away from 4-0 week, but did manage to go 3-1, finally finishing a week above .500, and moving to 6-3 in the ACC. While the ACC mark is high, the Canes’ overall record continues to leave them no margin for error.
The week seemingly started on a positive note, with the Canes unloading on FAU, building a 9-2 lead. Daniel Federman exited the game with a 9-3 differential, and Michael Mediavilla gave up 2 more runs. But into the 9th, the Canes still held a 9-5 lead…when they imploded. An error and a wild and ineffective Cooper Hammond allowed the Owls to bring 2 across and load the bases. With the Owls down to their last out, Hammond hung a pitch that was deposited over the gap between center and right field for a game winning Grand Slam. FAU won 11-9. Miami shot themselves in the foot all night, as only 4 of the Owls’ runs were earned, and the Canes struck out 10 times.
If Miami was staggered by the blow against FAU, they didn’t show it on the weekend. The pitching carried the Canes, only allowing 3 total runs in 3 games, as Miami got their season back on track with a 3-0 series sweep over Virginia. The series started with a 3-2 win in extra innings, with the Canes repeatedly threatening, but failing to score due to Strikeouts and Double Plays. Finally, in the 10th, Raymond Gil gapped a bases loaded walk off hit.
Saturday saw both teams struggle to score, with Miami scoring the games lone run on a ball that was lost in the lights in left field. Of note, though, is that the Canes were much better. They out-hit the Cavaliers 10-3, but Romy Gonzalez was thrown out at home twice and the Canes struck out 11 times, allowing UVA to hang in the game. Fortunately, Evan McKendry was lights out and Frankie Bartow pitched a 2-inning save, allowing the one run to hold up.
The Canes jumped all over UVA early on Sunday, building a 4-0 lead after 2. Andrew Cabezas gave Miami 6 strong innings, and Jeremy Cook and Cooper Hammond worked tension-filled 7th and 8th innings, pitching out of jams in both innings. In the bottom of the 8th, Miami ended the competitive phase of the game, scoring 4 more runs and coasting to an 8-1 win.
With the Canes now tied atop the ACC Coastal, they head on the road for 4 critical games, needing to boost that 12-11 overall record.
Note: Miami plays a midweek game on Tuesday against the Marlins at Marlins Park.
@Florida Gulf Coast
Wed: Mar 28, 6:30 PM
Note: Radio coverage on WVUM
Florida Gulf Coast is off to a strong start and looks to be one of the better teams in the Atlantic Sun conference. They are 18-5 on the season, including 13-3 at home, where they will host the Canes. In terms of common opponents, FGCU won a midweek game over FIU, but dropped 2 of 3 to Rutgers.
In midweek games, FGCU has used a lot of pitchers, but the starter should be Bryan Wilcox, except with his ERA approaching 10, he was used out of the bullpen on Sunday. If it is not Wilcox, Peyton Gray has made the midweek start. His ERA is a much more manageable 5.50, but he also pitched Sunday (albeit less than an inning). One of those 2 should start, but probably not go more than 3-4 innings. Expect to see Trey Vickery for at least an inning, as he is one of the FGCU’s best arms and works frequently. His ERA is 1.98. If it comes down to a save situation, Kenton Herring is the man with a 4.70 ERA and a team leading 3 saves.
At the plate, FGCU hits the cover off the ball. They bat .322 as a team, and have 7 batters hitting .300 or better, including Eric Gonzalez, who hits .404. They also hit for a ton of power, with 6 batters having hit more than one HR, and one hitter, Jake Smith having whacked 7 by himself. For all that power, they are also a low strike out team. The Canes do have the best ERA in the ACC, so this will be a battle, in particular for Daniel Federman.
Fri: Mar 30, 6:00 PM, Sat: Mar 31, 4:00 PM, Sun: Apr 1, 1:00 PM
Note: All games have WVUM radio coverage. TV coverage is on ESPN3.
Georgia Tech was supposed to be strong this year, but has struggled in ACC play, off to a 3-6 start. But that record is very misleading. The Yellow Jackets had the bad luck to start the season with 2 of 3 series on the road, in tough locations. They were swept at an excellent Clemson team and lost 2 of 3 at a strong NC State team. In between those 2 series, they won 2 of 3 over Virginia Tech.
So what kind of team has Georgia Tech been in 9 ACC games? They can be summed up in one word: POWER. The Yellow Jackets can hit. They are second in the ACC batting .310 as a team and have hit 31 home runs. By comparison, the Canes have hit 7. Chase Murray leads the way batting .414, and the Yellow Jackets have 6 players hitting over .300. The power comes from everywhere, but Joey Bart (8 HRs) and Kyle McCann (7 HRs) both hit around .350 and are leading the way from a HR standpoint. But 1-9, there is power and quality. This will be the toughest test the Canes have faced this year in terms of hitting.
But it’s another story on the mound. While the Canes have the best ERA in the ACC, the Yellow Jackets are near the bottom of the ACC with an ERA over 5 (at 5.20). Xzavion Curry is the ace of the Yellow Jackets and will go Friday. He has an ERA just north of 3, and he usually goes about 5-6 innings. Connor Thomas should go Saturday. His ERA is over 4. Sunday starter Tristin English (ERA over 4 as well) is also one of the team’s best hitters. The Sunday role has been influx. Out of the bullpen, the most effective arm (and most effective arm on the staff as a whole) is Andy Archer with a 1.29 ERA in 10 appearances. Other frequently used arms include Keyton Gibson (ERA over 5) and Jared Datoc (ERA over 3). If it comes to a save situation. GT has not really established anyone, but Dotac does lead the team in saves.
So something has to give in this series. Miami’s pitching is way better, GT’s hitting is way better. But GT has been in one of these series before, and failed miserably. Clemson (who pitches and hits worse, from an ERA and batting average standpoint, respectively, than Miami) won a series sweep over GT by shutting down the Yellow Jackets’ hitting. The Tigers held Georgia Tech to 2 runs, 3 runs, and 2 runs in 3 games, with only the first game being close. Miami will need to replicate that pitching performance this weekend.
Miami played about as well as you can expect them to play for all but a few innings last week. But how replicable is this success? The Canes have a clear advantage over most teams in one area (starting pitching), but still considerable deficiencies in two others (hitting and fielding). Generally, good pitching is a more sustainable recipe for success, and Miami has gotten excellent outings from Federman, Bargfeldt, McKendry, and Cabezas in his new role. That group will be put to the test against FGCU and Georgia Tech, both of whom can put up big numbers in a hurry. With all 4 games this week on the road, I expect the Miami to come back to reality a bit. A 2-2 week, given the circumstances, wouldn’t be a disaster. And that’s what I think happens – the Canes win at FGCU but drop 2 of 3 to Georgia Tech, unable to keep up with the Yellow Jackets proficient offensive capability.
I really think Federman will lead to continued midweek success. I know FGCU hits well, but this is a step up in competition. I trust Miami’s pitching, and the hitting is coming around somewhat (although the strikeouts are still alarming). I think this turns into a Miami game, which means low scoring, and that Miami has enough. On the weekend, it is a style contrast. But the Canes have so much room to grow from a hitting standpoint. They should score more runs than they have been, just based on batting average. But that falls apart when the Canes continuously strike out. That has to improve for this team to be good. The Yellow Jackets are struggling though, and legitimately can’t pitch. All 3 Miami starters are rolling, so I expect 3 good outings. That won’t be enough for a road sweep, but will be enough to win the series. Canes go 3-1, beating FGCU and taking 2 of 3 from Georgia Tech.