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This Week in ‘Canes Baseball: March 20 Edition

The Hurricanes have a huge week coming up.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Arizona vs Miami Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Hurricanes have another big week of games coming up, with a mid-week game against tough mid-major FAU and a weekend series against the No.24 Virginia Cavaliers. Miami will have the advantage of playing at home for every game this week, but there’s still a lot of talent for Miami to handle. UM, holding a 9-10 record on the season, is hoping for a big week to propel them back into the national spotlight.

The Hurricanes will hope to handle the week by continuing their string of recent good performances. Miami was 2-2 last week, and their opponents, UCF and Duke, are both ranked in the Top 25. The Hurricanes 2-2 mark last week may seem average, but in reality it was a big step forward for a team that had been struggling. Miami was competitive in every single game they played last week, and they managed to completely dominate Duke in their Sunday Game.

The Hurricanes will see if the second week of their new rotation can be as promising as the first. Freshman Daniel Federman looked extremely poised in his first start last week, and Miami will need him to continue that into this week. Meanwhile, the weekend rotation saw good performances from all three starters, despite the two losses. Jeb Bargfeldt was let down by his defense and some bad luck on Friday, and Evan McKendry suffered the same fate on Saturday. However Sunday’s game is the one that was the most surprising. Andrew Cabezas, who had struggled as Miami’s closer to start the season, was put into the starting rotation to the surprise of many Miami fans. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, Cabezas was dominant in his start, allowing no runs in six innings of work. Miami will need more performances of that caliber this week and throughout ACC play.

In another bit of news for the pitching staff, freshman right-hander Christopher McMahon was seen throwing off the mound in the bullpen before Miami’s game vs Duke on Friday. McMahon was considered to be the best incoming pitcher for the Hurricanes before suffering a torn meniscus, and Jim Morris said that the coaching staff expected him to be in the starting rotation before his injury. His return will be huge for Miami, and it’s expected to happen at some point in the coming weeks.

Mid-Week Game: Vs Florida Atlantic Owls

The Hurricanes will play their second game of the season against the FAU Owls Wednesday at Mark Light Field. The Owls took the first matchup against Miami 5-4 in Boca Raton in the last week of February. Since then the Owls have surged to a 15-5 record, and they’ll look to use that momentum to get a big road win against Miami.

FAU will hope to use the arm of senior Marc Stewart to propel them to victory on Wednesday. In his first start of the season last Tuesday, Stewart pitched four scoreless innings against UNF, and he has yet to be scored on this season.

At the plate the Owls are led by sophomore catcher Pedro Pages, who has started all 20 games this season for FAU, batting a consistent .346 average. Shortstop Tyler Frank is another player to watch out for in the Owls lineup. The junior leads FAU with four homeruns, and his .307 average is good enough for third highest on the team.

Miami will look to counter with a streaking shortstop of their own, as freshman Freddy Zamora has hit a hot streak as of late to push himself to a .279 average. Elsewhere in the infield, catcher Isaac Quinones has been a revelation since the injury to Michael Amditis, posting a .333 average and perfect fielding percentage.

Miami will also hope for a strong pitching performance. Daniel Federman will strive to have the same success in this week’s mid-week game as he did in last week’s. The right-hander has worked 21.2 innings on the season, and in that time he’s posted the second lowest ERA of any Miami pitcher, sitting at 1.66 on the season. In addition, opposing teams are batting just .169 against the young freshman. It’ll be important for him to not only continue that this week, but throughout the rest of the season.

Prediction: Miami 4, FAU 2

Game Info

Date & Time: Wednesday, March 21, 6:00 PM

Hurricanes Starter: Daniel Federman (1-1, 1.66 ERA)

FAU Starter: Marc Stewart (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Weekend Series: Vs No.24 Virginia Cavaliers

The Hurricanes will play a tough ACC series against a solid UVA team this weekend. UVA enters the week with a 13-7 record, including a less than spectacular 3-3 record in conference. The Cavaliers aren’t as strong as they have been in previous seasons this year, but they’ll look to prove something against Miami this weekend.

However, the Hurricanes will be looking to do just the same. Last week saw two losses that came as a result of some bad plays in the field and a little bit of bad luck, things that held the Hurricanes back, despite improved play. This week, the Hurricanes will attempt to show that they can eliminate that from their game, and turn into a solid team in the ACC.

The Cavaliers have a solid starting rotation of Derek Casey, Daniel Lynch, and Evan Sperling. Each one has had their struggles on the young season, but both Lynch and Sperling post solid, if unspectacular, ERAs, at 3.58 and 3.04 respectively. Casey has struggled the most of any of the three, posting a 2-2 record and 4.09 ERA. The bullpen is led by Bobby Nicholson, a sophomore right-hander who has posted an outstanding 1.04 ERA in 17.1 innings of work this season. Nicholson normally gets work as the Cavaliers mid-week starter, but with the games cancelled this week he should be available to appear against the Hurricanes this weekend. Bennett Sousa is another important arm for UVA, the senior has appeared 8 times in relief this season, and has a respectable 3.71 ERA to show for it. However, in looking at UVA’s bullpen, it is difficult to find a pitcher that jumps out as truly dominant, nevertheless, the Cavaliers are never a team anyone should underestimate.

UVA is led in the field by junior Andy Weber, Weber has started all 20 games for UVA this season, and leads the Cavaliers in both batting average and RBIs, while being tied for second on the team in homeruns. He’s a player to be reckoned with at the plate, and Miami will need to avoid letting players get on ahead of him this weekend. The Cavaliers are an all-around impressive team at the plate, they have five players batting over .300 in their starting lineup, and four players have 10 or more RBIs, with two other players sitting at 9. As a result Miami faces a challenge this week, they’ll have to be more consistent in the field against a team that puts the bat on the ball very well. In addition, the pitching staff faces another big test this week, and this series could show just how much the changes to the rotation have helped Miami improve.

The Hurricanes have struck out 201 times at the plate this season, and besides errors, many would say that is Miami’s single biggest issue on the season. They’ll have to start cutting down that number during ACC play, and it’d be nice to start that this weekend. The last few weeks have also seen a surge at the plate from Miami, and three players now bat at .300 or above, but the bottom of the lineup remains extremely inconsistent, with three players, Romy Gonzalez, Alex Toral, and Ray Gil, batting below .200 for the season. It’ll be important for Miami to start getting production from the whole lineup, and with a tough series looming, now seems a good time to start.

Miami and Virginia seem somewhat evenly matched, and the last few weeks have seen consistent improvement from the Hurricanes. Miami has a big chance to start to make their mark in the ACC this weekend, but only improved fielding and more consistent plate appearances can do that. We’ll see how Miami handles the strain, but this weekend will be a big indication on just how far the Hurricanes have come.

Prediction: Miami wins series 2-1.

Game Info

Game 1

Date & Time: Friday, March 23, 7:00 PM

Hurricanes Starter: Jeb Bargfeldt (2-2, 3.09 ERA)

Virginia Starter: Derek Casey (2-2, 4.09 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Game 2

Date & Time: Saturday, March 24, 7:00 PM

Hurricanes Starter: Evan McKendry (3-2, 2.54 ERA)

Virginia Starter: Daniel Lynch (2-2, 3.58 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: 790 The Ticket

Game 3

Date & Time: Sunday, March 25, 1:00 PM

Hurricanes Starter: Andrew Cabezas (1-2, 3.79 ERA)

Virginia Starter: Evan Sperling (2-0, 3.04 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM