The first few weeks of the 2013 season have been filled with a little bit of rain, a little bit of injuries and a little bit of tough, hard fought games. Most importantly though, there's been a whole lot of wins.
(For those of you scoring at home, these so called 'wins' are an important stat.)
A few walk-off wins combined with a few come from behind victories and a few games against less-than-elite competition have the Canes heading into the most important series of the young season with a perfect 9-0 record. However, when your next opponent is Florida and you're playing at Gainesville, you might as well throw the records out. Especially when Florida is 3-6 on the season and comes in on a five game losing streak.
Florida is not 3-6 bad. Let's just get that out of the way. While they lost a ton off last years College World Series qualifying team, they still have an abundance of talent on their roster and are still a huge threat to make a run at Omaha. Why the 3-6 record? It's called playing like crap. It happens, and it can happen to anyone. Anyone expecting the Gators to limp into this series and play uninspired baseball would be foolish. I'm assuming that UF Head Coach Kevin O'Sullivan has had a few choice words for his team after their lackluster start and I expect the Gators to come out playing like the team they are capable of.
Speaking of playing like the team they are capable of, this Canes team, while not blowing opponents out of the water, they have been executing at an extremely high level and have not had letdowns when they get behind. Rutgers, FAU, UW-Milwaukee, St. Thomas and Barry isn't exactly a schedule of death, but the Canes have responded by taking care of business like they should have.
Hurricane starting pitchers have allowed a total of seven earned runs over nine starts. You can't really ask for much more out of a starting staff. As a team, the Canes head into this series with a miniscule 1.89 ERA. Despite this staff not having arm after arm of 94MPH+, this staff has shown an ability to throw strikes and limit damage. The Hurricanes have surrendered only 19 walks on the season, which through 9 games, is only slightly absurd.
While the team only has 2 home runs (one by Captain Awesome himself, David Thompson and the other by Dale Carey) the Canes have been driving the ball more than expected and have twenty five extra base hits as a team. When you have more XBH's than walks your pitchers have surrendered, odds are you're going to be successful.
Of course, a team .325/.399/.436 triple slash line means you're probably going to be successful too, but it's always much easier when the pitching is putting up equally impressive stats as well.
Some other stats of note include David Thompson's 14 RBI's, Brad Fieger's .438 batting average and Alex San Juan slugging an impressive .542.
However, one stat jumps off the page when talking Miami and Florida:
That's Miami's record against Florida dating back to the 2009 Regional in Gainesville. Though Miami swept the regular season series in 2009, Florida has more or less owned the Hurricanes since the Canes last win in Gainesville (March 1, 2009). Florida has also won 11 in a row, with Miami's lone win over that span coming in Coral Gables during the 2010 season.
Lest we not forget that Florida also knocked the Canes out of the postseason in three consecutive years. Lest we also not forget how brutal those games were for the Canes. They didn't just lose, they fell apart at the seams and performed nothing like those wearing a Miami uniform should.
But the past is the past my friends, and 2013 is a whole new season. Miami comes in to this series playing about as well as they can, and Florida is on the opposite end of the spectrum. This will surely be a tough series for both teams, and I'd expect Florida to come out with a renewed vigor. The Canes execution in their small ball game has been outstanding to date, and must continue to be so this weekend. If the Canes pitch like they have been and execute offensively, taking this series home with them back to Coral Gables is more than realistic. Let us all hope that the Ghosts of Errors past are napping this weekend and don't find their way into the Canes gloves again.
Eric Whaley and Bryan Radziewski made their season debuts this past week against St. Thomas, with Radziewski working two innings of scoreless ball and Whaley giving up three earned over 1.2 IP. I wouldn't read too much into Whaley's performance, as shoulder injuries can be tough to rebound quickly and easily from. Expect both to be used in bullpen roles until they are both ready to resume starter duties.
Dale Carey has to step up this weekend for the Canes to have a chance at taking the series. Florida isn't hurting for power arms, and one of the keys for the Canes offense will be the bottom of the lineup's ability to extend innings and get the middle of the order more hacks. With Carey hitting an even .200 on the season, he hasn't provided much in lieu of lineup extension. With the way Thompson, Mack and Fieger have been swinging, the Canes need to get them as many chances as possible. Brandon Lopez, while a Freshman, needs to step up as well. Some slack will be given as he's still learning the game, but that slack is running out and it's time to start producing. Carey, as a Junior with plenty of experience, has no slack. It's time to produce.
Michael Broad (.429 over last 5 games), Alex Fernandez (.474) and Brad Fieger (.500) have been raking lately, and must continue their hot streaks this weekend against Florida's deep staff.
Game 1 Starters-
Miami LHP Chris Diaz (1-0, 0.75) vs. UF RHP Jonathon Crawford (0-1, 4.00)
Game 2 Starters-
Miami RHP Javi Salas (2-0, 0.00) vs UF RHP Tucker Simpson (0-1, 4.15)
Game 3 Starters-
Miami LHP Andrew Suarez (1-0, 1.80) vs UF TBA
Friday's game can be seen on Sun Sports/FOX Sports Florida and heard on WQAM/WVUM. Saturday's game can be seen on Sun Sports and heard on WQAM/WVUM. Sunday's game will be audio only with WQAM and WVUM picking up the game, unless you have GatorVision.