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This Week In ‘Canes Baseball: April 17 Edition

The Hurricanes have a big chance for a 4-0 week, and they need to take advantage.

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

The 15-20 (9-9 ACC) Miami Hurricanes have a big week ahead of them. After coming through with two huge wins against Clemson last weekend Miami comes into one of the least challenging weeks on the schedule with some momentum, and they need to take advantage.

The Hurricanes have started to see improvements at the plate, especially last weekend, when they put up crooked numbers on Clemson, one of the best pitching teams in the ACC, in two games. However, the Hurricanes still need to find a way to hit better in situations with men on. They waste far too many scoring oppurtunities, and they’ll need to improve that to continue their good play.

Miami goes into a stretch of five straight home games starting Wednesday, and they need to win every single one to put themselves back in the NCAA Tournament conversation. Huge series wins, like the one on the road last weekend, will only become important if Miami can start to win consistently.

In fact, Miami’s biggest problem has been consistency, from game to game they can look like a completely different team. For this team to make any sort of run, they’ll have to play with their best effort and focus in every game, not just in a few select ones.

Mid-Week Game: Vs FGCU

Miami is just 1-7 in mid-week games this season, making these games quite possibly the single biggest reason the Hurricanes are in the tough spot that they are in. One of the toughest losses came in the ‘Canes first game against FGCU. An 1-0 loss, the game was the first loss in what turned into a seven game losing streak. Miami needs to get a win and use that to propel them to a long winning streak.

It seems that in the mid-week games Miami is considerably less focused. The Hurricanes’ fielding struggles more, and in some games the ‘Canes bats don’t show up at all. However, these games are showing their importance, because last season they very well may have been the reason the Hurricanes missed the NCAA Tournament, and they’re playing the same role this season.

If you lose a mid-week game, it becomes extremely difficult to have a positive week. Especially in a tough conference like the ACC. A loss in a mid-week game means that you have to sweep the weekend series to be 3-1 on the week, and that very issue has reared its’ ugly head this season. Therefore, Miami needs to find a way to fix those struggles, and they need to find that solution soon.

The Hurricanes face a tough challenge this week. The FGCU Eagles are 25-9 on the season, and as aforementioned the Hurricanes have already dropped one game against them this season. Miami missed several chances in that game, and they’ll need to change that this time around.

It looks like Christopher McMahon will take the mound for the ‘Canes this Wednesday. The freshman was Miami’s highest ranked incoming pitcher before an injury in the fall, and he’s returned to the pitching staff in the last few weeks. His first start came last Wednesday, where he gave UM a few solid innings of work before exiting the game due to a pitch count limitation as he recovers from his injury.

The previous mid-week starter, Daniel Federman, has returned to the bullpen for the time being. Federman has been one of Miami’s best arms all season, and his move back to the bullpen has bolstered the quality of Miami’s relief pitching immensely.

The Hurricanes have a big chance to start a long, much needed, winning streak on Wednesday, they have to take advantage. This may turn out to be one of the most important games of the season.

Prediction: Miami 4, FGCU 3

Game Info

Date & Time: Wednesday, April 18, 6:00 PM

Hurricanes Starter: Chris McMahon (0-0, 4.50 ERA)

FGCU Starter: Evan Lumbert (4-1, 2.57 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Weekend Series: Vs Pittsburgh Panthers

The Pitt Panthers have a solid overall record on the season, at 19-14, but they’ve struggled in the ACC, with just an 8-10 record through 18 games. This is a very winnable series for the ‘Canes, especially at home, and they’ll need to take advantage of the chance.

Furthermore, when you take a closer look at Pitt, it’s difficult to find how they’ve earned a positive record. At the plate they’re dead last in the ACC in batting average, at just .242 on the season. They’re third to last (but above Miami) in slugging percentage, at .351, and they’ve only hit 20 homeruns on the season. They’re even in the bottom half of the ACC in on-base percentage.

In addition, they struggle on the mound, with the fifth worst ERA in the ACC, and the fifth worst opponent batting average in the ACC. If there’s one redeeming quality for the Panthers, it’s their fielding, which is the second best in the conference. However, when looking at these numbers, it’s easy to see that Pitt’s overall record isn’t really in line with their performance.

For a Miami team that is looking to prove that last week’s offensive outburst is no fluke, Pitt presents a perfect opportunity. As previously mentioned they have one of the weaker pitching staffs in the ACC, and the Panthers have just one pitcher with an ERA below three, and just four with an ERA under four. For comparison, Miami has six pitchers with an ERA below four, and four pitchers with an ERA at or below three.

Additionally, Miami has started to improve at the plate. Romy Gonzalez, one of Miami’s most crucial players last season, had been struggling this year, but he had a four for five day against Clemson last Friday, including a homerun and two RBIs. Additionally, Isaac Quinones has continued his success at the plate, and Willy Escala and Freddy Zamora have started to make big impacts for the Hurricanes, both are now batting over .300 on the season. The ‘Canes could see further improvement in the lineup with the return of Danny Reyes, the transfer outfielder is batting .357 on the season, and he should see more and more playing time as he finishes his recovery from an injury he sustained early in the season.

Pitt has also had their fair share of struggles on the season, but one player Miami needs to watch out for is Liam Sabino. The junior leads the Panthers in homeruns, with nine on the season, and he’ll look to impact the weekend series in a major way. Sabino will be joined by outfielder Frank Maldonado. Maldonado is batting at a solid .316 average on the season, and he’ll look to get on base to set up run scoring oppurtunities for Sabino.

While the top of both lineups’ are capable of putting runs on the scoreboard. This series may come down to which lineup can get the most out of the bottom of the order. Each team has three regular starters that bat below .200, and both teams struggle to find power in their lineups. This is a big chance for two highly touted freshmen, Alex Toral and Ray Gil, to step up. The two corner infielders were said to be the best hitters in Miami’s recruiting class, but so far both have struggled to meet expectations. As we get later in the season both should be acclimating to college pitching, and if one, or both, could have a breakout performance this weekend it would be a huge boost to the Miami lineup.

These teams appear to be very similar, but Miami has one major advantage, and that’s pitching. The Hurricanes have some of the best arms in the ACC, and that should make the difference this weekend.

Prediction: Miami wins series with two wins on Friday and Saturday, but falls short of the sweep on Sunday. Miami takes the series 2-1.

Game Info:

Game 1

Date & Time: Friday, April 20, 7:00 PM

Hurricanes Starter: Jeb Bargfeldt (2-3, 4.26 ERA)

Pitt Starter: Dan Hammer (2-2, 9.67 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Game 2

Date & Time: Saturday, April 21, 7:00 PM

Hurricanes Starter: Evan McKendry (5-4, 3.62 ERA)

Pitt Starter: Matt Pidich (4-1, 3.11 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Game 3

Date & Time: Sunday, April 22, 1:00 PM

Hurricanes Starter: Andrew Cabezas (3-4, 5.19 ERA)

Pitt Starter: Blair Calvo (1-2, 4.50 ERA)

Television: ACC Network Extra

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM