This is going to get increasingly depressing as the year winds on, but we made a commitment, and we’re going to do it. The Canes lost the 3 more games this week to run their win streak to 7 before winning a 5-inning, rain shortened Game 3 on Sunday, which was a miracle by itself. The bottom line is the Canes can’t hit at all, strike out way to much, make a ton of errors, and the pitching, having been overstressed for much of the year, is starting to wobble. The Canes lost the midweek game to FAU 9-6, where FAU jumped out to an early lead, and then managed the game from there. There is nothing of real note in this game.
On Friday, UNC jumped out to an early lead, but Jeb Bargfeldt settled down and the Canes seemed in control for much of the game, nursing a 1-run lead. They eventually gave up the lead, allowed 1-run in the 11th inning, which they managed to get back in the bottom half of the inning. Unfortunately, with the winning run in scoring position and only 1 out, old friend strike out reared its ugly head and the Canes gave up 4 in the top of the 12th to lose the game 8-4. Saturday’s game saw the Canes go up 3-1, but the pitching was a struggle and Evan McKendry gave up 7 earned run. There were some consolation runs scored on each side, but the game was never in doubt as UNC cruised to a 9-6 win.
Sunday’s game saw UNC jump out to a huge lead, with a sweep imminent. Trailing 5-1 entering the bottom of the 5th, the Canes’ best hope appeared to be to use delay tactics to have the rain start before the inning could end, allowing for the game to be cancelled. Instead, Miami showed a ton of heart and exploded for 6 runs, just before the rain came, and the inning completed just in time. The game was called, but the result officially a 7-5 Canes win in 5 innings.
So where does this leave Miami? Ouch. Miami is now 13-18 overall and 7-8 in the ACC. It seems absurd to talk about the NCAA Tournament at this juncture, but with 23 games left, the Canes basically cannot lose another series, and need some sweeps. To get in a position to make the NCAA Tournament, the Canes would at least need to get 4-5 games over .500. With 23 games left, that means winning 70% (if 4 games over .500) or 74% (if 5 games over .500) of the remaining games. So the Canes really need to go 3-1 every week, and go 4-0 to offset any 2-2 weeks.
This week has a home game with UCF, before traveling to Clemson for 3 games. So good luck with that 3-1 week.
Wed: Apr 4, 6:00 PM
Note: All games have WVUM radio coverage. TV coverage is on ESPN3.
One of the Canes better wins was a road win over UCF earlier this year. While UCF’s overall record has been fine, they’ve actually struggled in conference, including dropping 2 of 3 to Connecticut last week. They were on fire heading into the last meeting, but this time both teams come in with major struggles.
In the last matchup with UCF, Daniel Federman and Joe Sheridan both put on solid performances. The Canes took the lead in the 6th, and the bullpen held that one run lead for the remainder of the game. But probably the most startling thing is how much the rotation has changed since then. In that meeting, Federman was replaced by Frankie Bartow, who then handed to Andrew Cabezas, with Cooper Hammond closing the game. Now, Cabezas is the Sunday starter, Hammond is middle relief, and Bartow is the closer. I’m not going to copy and paste the preview from earlier in the season, but clearly at that point, we had overrated UCF after they had battered UF in the midweek the previous week and were riding a winning streak. Since then, they’ve lost multiple midweek games to FSU that were non-competitive, and played below .500 in conference. Joe Sheridan should pitch again for UCF, but this is a toss-up, which is precisely the type of game the Canes cannot afford to lose.
Fri: Apr 13, 6:30 PM, Sat: Apr 14, 5:00 PM, Sun: Apr 15, 1:00 PM
Note: All games have WVUM radio coverage. TV coverage is on ESPN3.
Unfortunately, Clemson is an outstanding team and this is going to be challenge. Just coming into this week, Clemson should be favored to sweep this series, and the Canes absolutely must win it. Clemson’s resume is impressive. They are 10-5 in the ACC, which is a tie for the second best mark, and 25-7 overall. Their series wins include a sweep of Georgia Tech and taking 2 of 3 from Louisville. They have had some of the ACC “cupcakes” in BC and ND, and were swept at home by NC State, so maybe there is a glimmer of hope.
But where Clemson is elite is pitching, and that’s what has carried them. They lead the ACC in Team ERA. Jacob Hennessey will get the start on Friday, and he is one of the ACC’s top starters with an ERA of 2.42. He also holds teams to a batting average of .208 and does not struggle with control, so runs will be hard to come by. It doesn’t get much better for the Canes on Saturday, with Brooks Crawford also sporting a sub 3 ERA and having good control. Sunday is where Clemson does have some question marks in terms of starting pitching, with Jake Higginbotham having an ERA of 4.05. But the Clemson bullpen is not something you want to get into. The Tigers have 10 pitchers with an ERA of 3 or less that they use extensively out of the bullpen. They also have 3 pitchers that have served in the closer role, combining for 12 saves. Ryley Gilliam with a 1.29 ERA will likely close in a save situation, but anyone they call from the bullpen will be difficult to deal with.
So are the Canes screwed? Maybe not, because at the plate, Clemson struggles. In fact, Clemson is a perfect case study in why Miami’s catastrophic mistakes are killing the Canes. Clemson is 1 of 2 teams in the ACC with a worse batting average than the Canes…however, they have scored a whopping 61 more runs. The reason? The Tigers have walked 61 more times and struck out 61 times less. The Canes have lost a lot of close games by failing to drive in runs and striking out at critical times. Clemson does the opposite, and that is why they succeed. Essentially, they are significantly better coached at the plate. From a player standpoint, Seth Beer is the man that we’ll all recognize, and he has knocked 10 HRs this year. Jordan Greene is the only player on the team that plays regularly that is hitting above .300. This is a lineup the Canes’ pitchers might have success against.
Overall, the Canes should be in all 3 games but will have to break trends of making errors, striking out, and failing to draw walks, while sprinkling in clutch hits.
As mentioned above, Miami needs 3-1/4-0 weeks to get back into any sort of tournament, but don’t get your hopes up for that happening here. Since UCF has had some struggles of their own, Miami might be able to sneak out the midweek win (though, they’re an atrocious 1-6 in those matchups, so the clear call is to pick against them in this spot). But the weekend looks especially grim. Generally, the Canes don’t discriminate when it comes to who they struggle against and where – they’re equal opportunity crappy hitters. But this combination of Clemson’s stellar pitching and playing on the road is a recipe for disaster. I don’t think I’ve ever predicted an 0-4 week since we started these previews years ago, but this feels like the right spot. Miami loses all 4 and falls nine (!) games below .500.
At the risk of just copying and pasting last week’s prediction, this team still sucks. That was a fortunate, fluke win against UNC which at least shows that the team has not quit. With that said, they are worse than UCF and Clemson. But what the hell, maybe they’ll be able to leverage the earlier winning experience against UCF to win again this week. On the weekend, Clemson is essentially what Miami could be with their rotation and hitting, if Miami was well coached. That is the bright side…a lot of these players are good and some minor adjustments can go a long way…but that’s for next year. The Canes will win a game this week, either against UCF or Clemson, but not more than that. 1-3 week in a week where they must go at least 3-1, and take a major step towards officially being eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.