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This Week in ‘Canes Baseball: April 11 Edition

The ‘Canes need wins this week.

Ricky Eusebio
Credit: Richard Lewis / Miami Athletics

The Miami Hurricanes enter this week at 13-18 (7-8 ACC). The ‘Canes are in desperate need of wins, and they’ll need to have great weeks for nearly the whole rest of the season if they want to have any chance of making the NCAA Tournament.

Over the last two weeks Miami had one of the longest losing streaks in their storied baseball history, dropping seven consecutive games before finally getting a win in a rain shortened game last Sunday. Even the Hurricanes pitching staff, which was one of the few bright spots for the struggling Hurricanes, seemed to underperform last week.

The Hurricanes may not even find themselves in the ACC Tournament, let alone the NCAA Tournament. As of this week, Miami is just one game ahead of the last three teams in their division, with Pitt, Virginia, and Virginia Tech all waiting to pounce on the struggling ‘Canes. Things become even more worrisome when you look at both Pitt and Virginia’s overall records. The two have records of 17-11 and 16-14 respectively, and they’re both playing much better baseball than the Hurricanes. In addition, Virginia Tech sits with a similar record to Miami’s, and unless the Hurricanes begin to play better, their series against the Hokies may just determine if they make or miss the ACC Tournament.

To add insult to injury, the Hurricanes are stumbling at just the wrong time, because the week ahead may be the toughest week of the whole season. The Hurricanes will face previously ranked UCF this Wednesday, before a critical series against No.9 Clemson this weekend. It’s a tall order to come out of this week with a positive record, but Miami absolutely has to do that in every single week for the rest of the season.

Mid-week Game: Vs UCF

The Hurricanes take on the UCF Knights for the second time this season on Wednesday. In the two teams’ first matchup Miami won a tight one 4-3 to end UCF’s 13 game long winning streak. They’ll need to do the same this week to gain some positive momentum for a tough ACC series this weekend.

Both teams have struggled since their first matchup. The Knights have dropped out of the polls and sit on a 4-5 record in conference play. Therefore, UCF will be looking to turn around their misfortune with a big win at The Light on Wednesday, especially since they can get revenge on the Hurricanes and tie the season series.

Meanwhile things have completely fallen apart in Coral Gables. What started out as a Jim Morris farewell tour is now turning into a disaster of a season. Miami has been plagued with fielding woes since the start of the season, and they continue to strikeout at an unsustainable rate. Meanwhile, the pitching staff, which is undoubtedly the ‘Canes’ biggest strength, struggled immensely over the past eight games, allowing 52 runs over just that stretch.

As a result this game seems to be a battle between two teams desperately trying to get back on track. It seemed that the Hurricanes had hit their stride after a weekend sweep of UVA, and UCF looked like an unstoppable force, but both of those storylines have grinded to a halt and have begun to move in the opposite direction over the past few weeks, and both teams will look to try to reverse the narrative once again tomorrow.

Prediction: UCF 7, Miami 1

Game Info

Date & Time: Wednesday, April 11, 6:00 PM

Hurricanes Starter: Daniel Federman (1-3, 2.55 ERA)

UCF Starter: Cre Finfrock (2-0, 5.60 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Weekend Series: @ Clemson Tigers

The Miami Hurricanes will visit the Clemson Tigers this weekend. With a record of 25-7 (10-5 ACC) on the season, the Tigers are one of the top teams in the ACC, and they’ll look to earn an important sweep in conference play against the Hurricanes this weekend.

In many ways Clemson is everything Miami wishes it could be. The Tigers’ team batting average sits at a meager .248, good enough for second to last in the ACC, .003 points worse than the Hurricanes batting average, but they have much more pop in their bats than Miami. Clemson has hit 43 homeruns on the season, which is second in the ACC, while Miami sits dead last in the conference, with just 11 on the season. Additionally Clemson has the best pitching staff in the ACC, with an average ERA of just 3.14. To cap it all off they have the fourth best fielding percentage in the conference, sitting at a solid .976 on the season.

Clemson is what Miami set out to be at the start of the season. The Hurricanes knew that they would struggle with strikeouts and that they would probably struggle to string hits together, but many expected them to have success with the freshman power in the lineup. Instead the Hurricanes have hit just eleven home runs on the season. If this stat had been taken a week and a half ago that number would have been a mere seven. In short, Miami has totally missed its’ offensive goal on the season.

The similarities also extend to the pitching mound and in the field. At the start of the season Miami set out to be one of the most dominant pitching staffs in the ACC, and they hoped to get solid defensive play from some of the most athletic freshmen to hit campus in years. Instead they got neither. The Hurricanes pitching staff has been damaged by injuries and a lack of defensive ability behind them. Miami sits at a dismal .964 fielding percentage, and even that number is a major improvement from the start of the season. However, the problems are not all in the field. Miami sits in the middle of the pack in nearly every pitching statistic, and things have gotten worse in the last few weeks. Meanwhile, Clemson has met those expectations. The Tigers have been the most dominant pitching staff in the ACC since the start of the season, and they remain one of the best in the nation. Clemson wins by limiting the runs the other team scores, which is precisely what Miami set out to do at the start of the season but has been unable to accomplish so far.

Those of us watching at home should expect this series to be low scoring, both teams have some of the lowest batting averages in the ACC, but Clemson sports a huge advantage. The Tigers have an ability to knock the ball out of the park all the way through the lineup, while the Hurricanes power is limited to a few select players in the order. Some of which don’t even start regularly because of defensive deficiencies. For the Hurricanes to have any sort of success in this series they’ll have to take advantage of nearly every mistake a Clemson pitcher makes, and they’ll have to limit their strikeouts and put the ball into play.

This series will determine how Miami reacts to being knocked down over the last two weeks. Their seven game losing streak was gut-wrenching, but they have to recover and put together several good weeks to have a chance to salvage the season. It won’t be easy, and even if they did finish the season playing great baseball it still wouldn’t guarantee them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Miami needs to take every chance this weekend, they have to be aggressive, they have to fight back. The Hurricanes are sitting on two strikes as they head into this weekend, and they can’t avoid another swing and a miss against ACC competition.

Prediction: Clemson sweeps Miami, 3-0

Game Info

Game 1

Date & Time: Friday, April 13, 6:30 PM

Hurricanes Starter: Jeb Bargfeldt (2-3, 3.71 ERA)

Clemson Starter: Jacob Hennessy (3-2, 2.42 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Game 2

Date & Time: Saturday, April 14, 5:00 PM

Hurricanes Starter: Evan McKendry (4-4, 4.14 ERA)

Clemson Starter: Brooks Crawford (3-1, 2.82 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Game 3

Date & Time: Sunday, April 15, 1:00 PM

Hurricanes Starter: Andrew Cabezas (3-3, 4.30 ERA)

Clemson Starter: Jake Higginbotham (4-1, 4.05 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM