The Miami Hurricanes’ 2018 baseball season starts Friday against Rutgers at Mark Light Field. The Hurricanes come off a disappointing 32-27 (16-13 ACC) season that saw the Hurricanes miss the NCAA tournament after 44 consecutive appearances. Additionally, this is the last season that long time head coach Jim Morris will guide the Hurricanes.
Miami comes into this season with a lot of high-caliber talent, however, a large amount of that talent is very young. The Hurricanes will undoubtedly rely on what should be a strong pitching staff to be successful throughout the season.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes will look to this weekend’s series against Rutgers as an opportunity to prime themselves for an outstanding season. This will be the fourth consecutive season Miami will open against the Scarlet Knights. The Hurricanes swept the Knights in 2015 and 2016, and in 2017 the Hurricanes won the series 2-1. However, the 17-6 loss suffered in the Sunday game last season foreshadowed many of the problems Miami would struggle to manage throughout the season.
This year, as with the last couple, Miami easily holds the talent advantage. However, because so much of Miami’s roster is so young, the opening weekend may be a bit of a struggle. Fortunately, the weekend rotation for Miami is full of experience and talent, and that should be able to carry Miami to a win for the series, and provide a definite opportunity for a sweep.
There will be many eyes on this series, as Miami fans and the national media try to get a gauge on the caliber of Miami’s 2018 team. The Hurricanes were ranked as highly as No.9 in the nation in some polls, and as low as not being ranked at all. This series is an important yardstick for the season as a whole. This becomes even more true for a team that’s leaders have vowed to never let the disappointment of last year occur again.
Miami faces a Rutgers program playing its’ first season after a large amount of turnover on the coaching staff. The Knights will see three assistant coaches make their debut against the Hurricanes. The Scarlet Knights are looking to make a big step this season, and they will look to rely on their pitching staff nearly as much as the Hurricanes. Senior John O’Reilly is a leader for Rutgers in the locker room, and he will look to build upon a season that saw him have the most starts of any Scarlet Knights pitcher. Meanwhile, catcher Chris Folinusz looks to build upon a 2017 campaign that resulted in him becoming a third-team All-Big Ten selection. However, the Scarlet Knights have one very big standout, Jawuan Harris. A two-sport star in both football and baseball, Harris has been heralded as one of the Big Ten’s best baseball prospects, he will look to capitalize on his potential this season after a solid, if unspectacular season, last year. It should also be noted that this series is a homecoming for Harris, who grew up in Broward County and attended St. Thomas Aquinas.
On the home side of the diamond the Hurricanes will look for junior Romy Gonzalez to start off his campaign right after a great season last year that saw him be arguably the Hurricanes best offensive player. Elsewhere in the outfield, senior Michael Burns will look to build upon a solid 2017 campaign. In my opinion Burns could be a bit of a breakout star for Miami, and he is a very fun player to watch because of his effort and love for the game. The outfield is full of potential, as the other potential starter, Danny Reyes, is a highly touted transfer from the University of Florida. Reyes will look to provide immediate offensive production. The weekend rotation will also begin to be able to prove their talents, as second-team All-ACC selection Jeb Bargfeldt will return in his role as the Hurricanes’ ace. The final two spots are filled out by two sophomores, Greg Veliz and Evan McKendry, who earned their spots over senior Michael Mediavilla. Mediavilla will instead slot into the mid-week role, and the 2016 second-team All-American should be one of the best mid-week starters anywhere in the country. The infield will find itself in a youth movement, with highly-touted recruits Alex Toral and Ray Gil almost certain to start at the corners. These two players will look to provide immediate offensive production at two spots that have been weak points in the lineup for the past several years. In addition to those newcomers, catcher Michael Amditis will return to the lineup after only playing one week of the 2017 season before being injured. Amditis should be a huge defensive and offensive boost to the Hurricanes, especially since catcher was a very weak position last season after the injury to him. Out of the bullpen, Miami will look to utilize the deadly duo of Frankie Bartow and Andrew Cabezas together for the first time this weekend. Additionally it will be interesting to see if Jim Morris looks to senior Cooper Hammond this weekend. Hammond suffered a terrible injury in 2016, and saw limited action in 2017. However, before his injury, Hammond was one of Miami’s best relievers. If Miami has a chance to ease Hammond into action this weekend it could be a big boost to the Hurricanes’ bullpen.
In the end I expect Miami to sweep the Scarlet Knights this weekend to start off the season on a good note. As for my prediction of the 2018 Miami Hurricanes’ record, I’ll go high here, and say Miami will finish at 38-16, that may seem like a high amount of wins for such a young team, but I have faith in the talent of the squad.
Series Prediction: Miami sweeps 3-0.
Date & Time: Friday, February 16, 7:00 PM
Hurricanes’ Starting Pitcher: Jeb Bargfeldt (7-3, 2.28 ERA)*
TV: ACC Network Extra
Added Info: A Fireworks Display after the game!
The only thing that can make Opening Day even better? Stay afterwards for a postgame fireworks show at The Light! pic.twitter.com/zB2xkvkix1— Canes Baseball (@CanesBaseball) February 12, 2018
Date & Time: Saturday, February 17, 7:00 PM
Hurricanes’ Starting Pitcher: Greg Veliz (6-4, 3.38 ERA)*
TV: ACC Network Extra
Added Info: Miami will debut its’ special camo hats that will be worn on Saturdays all season long.
Date & Time: Sunday, February 18, 1:00 PM
Hurricanes’ Starting Pitcher: Evan McKendry (4-2, 4.10 ERA)*
TV: ACC Network Extra
Added Info: None
*All Stats are from 2017