The Miami Hurricanes baseball team will take on their greatest baseball rival this weekend in a three-game series that could position them for even greater success in the ACC tournament which is lurking right around the corner. After dropping two of three at Virginia last weekend, the time is right for Miami to defeat a nationally-ranked opponent and carry some additional momentum into the tournament.
Florida State baseball, winners of their last five games and ranked 11th in the country, has two big road trips left before the ACC tournament. These series’ will set the tone and the seeding for the Noles in the tournament as they take on the leaders of the Coastal (Miami) and Atlantic (Louisville) Divisions respectively.
Miami currently leads the Coastal by four games over North Carolina and has a 30-11 record. More importantly, Miami is 22-2 at the friendly confines of Mark Light Stadium this season and has won nine straight home series.
'I really like where we are in terms of the conference play," Miami coach Jim Morris said. "We lead our division by a couple of games and we play most of the remainder of our games at home and I really like where we are. This is where you want to be."
Miami is led by third baseman David Thompson, who is a Golden Spikes nominee. Thompson is batting .340 with ten home runs and 50 RBI.
"It's been a lot of fun. Our whole team has been hitting really well all year," Thompson said. "Hopefully we can continue hitting the rest of the year like this."
Senior Garrett Kennedy has been on a tear lately and is batting .429 in 23 games at home, with 30 hits, six doubles and 19 RBI. Junior George Iskenderian is batting .378 at home with 24 RBI and 26 runs scored.
Miami’s starting pitching is bolstered by the return of junior pitcher Andrew Suarez who was drafted in the second round of last season’s Major League Baseball draft by the Washington Nationals. He elected to come back to Miami and has a 4-0 record with a 2.09 ERA and 38 strikeouts. He strained his oblique before his second scheduled start and missed some time earlier in the season. He will start on Saturday night in Game Two of the series.
"Andy’s always great. It’s hard to talk about him too much, because he has always gone out there and given it his all," said catcher Zack Collins. "No matter what he has that day, he battles. He always gives us his best and a chance to win."
Before the opener on Friday night, the Canes will pay tribute to former Miami baseball coaching legend and Florida State graduate, Ron Fraser. The school has erected a statue that was designed and sculpted by Zenos Frudakis and funded largely by friends and fans of the late coach, who passed away on January 20, 2013.
While never posting a losing season, Fraser’s teams won 1,271 games and captured the 1982 and 1985 national titles.
"The entire Fraser family is very excited about the dedication and unveiling of the statue," said Ron’s daughter Cynthia Fraser. "We are so grateful to the donors and the University for this wonderful tribute, and can’t wait to see Ron Fraser back at Mark Light."
Ron’s youngest daughter Liz put the moment in its proper perspective.
"It is only appropriate that my dad, who wanted to make Mark Light a place where you could bring your family any night of the week, be there to personally greet each visitor to the ball park that he helped build," Liz Fraser Kraut said. "It would be like he is still there at the park welcoming everyone to his ball park. That was part of the game that he loved and adored. He loved to talk to the fans."
FSU Coach Mike Martin is honored that he will be in town for the festivities and that the University of Miami selected the FSU series as the weekend for the unveiling.
"We are proud that we are team that the University of Miami is competing against when Ron Fraser is being honored," Martin said. "He graduated from Florida State. He maintained close ties with his friends from Florida State and we are sincerely honored that the University of Miami would choose the night that we are competing to make this a reality."
Martin also spoke highly of Fraser and the competitive nature and friendship that the two of them enjoyed over the years.
"It is a heated rivalry, but I was in a heated rivalry when I played Fraser in tennis," Martin joked. "We were always trying to beat each other, but I will always remember Fraser and his friendship, his concern and his desire to make college baseball a lot more than others thought it would ever become."
Fraser graduated from Florida State University on June 30, 1960 with a bachelor’s of science degree in physical education. He was elected into the Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1981. He played baseball at Florida State from 1954-56 and 1959.
Stay tuned to the State of the U for more information on the Ron Fraser Dedication Ceremony. The author will be publishing additional pieces about the ceremony and the late coach over the weekend, including an up close and personal story that details the life of the great coach through the eyes of his children and wife.
We will also have photographs of the statute and the dignitaries that will be in attendance at the ceremony, including the Fraser family.