Death, taxes, and the Miami Hurricanes making the NCAA baseball regionals. For 44 years, all three were certain to happen.
But that all changed in May 2017, when the Canes were left out of the 64-team field for the first time in since 1972.
44 NCAA regionals, 25 College World Series appearances, and four national titles bookended each end of the streak.
The disappointment of 2017 carried into ‘18, as the Canes fell to 17-25 in late April. An 11-game winning streak that stretched into the ACC tournament gave the team some hope, but it was not enough to salvage the final season of Jim Morris’ storied, quarter-century career in Coral Gables.
Two National Championships, 13 trips to the College World Series, 1,089 wins at Miami and 1,593 wins in 37 seasons as a D1 head coach.— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) May 19, 2018
Thank you, @Coach3morris, for everything you have done for @CanesBaseball and college baseball. Congratulations on an unbelievable career! pic.twitter.com/hZ9xyXBAnj
On June 19th, the coach-in-waiting DiMare was officially announced as head coach of the baseball program during a luncheon on campus.
After 25 years of a singular voice on San Amaro Drive, a change has been ushered in— the question now remains as to what this means for the program’s direction.
Questions and Concerns
DiMare has been a Cane for life to this point. He played as an outfielder at Mark Light Stadium from 1989-92, after which he spent a few years in the Red Sox organization. When his playing days ended, he became an assistant coach at Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale before coming back to The U, where he served as an assistant coach from 1997-2008 and again from 2012 onward.
But as he lacks head coaching experience, some doubts exist over his ability to lead Miami’s historical powerhouse program.
As Morris inched closer to retirement over the past couple years, the transfer of power had slowly shifted in DiMare’s direction. By the time the groundskeepers had finished spray paining the ceremonial 3 behind home plate in honor of Morris’ final go-around, the 48-year-old assistant DiMare was virtually the sole recruiter in the program, in addition to having large roles in all facets of the game. For example, all mound visits— except pitching changes— were handled by DiMare.
With no apparent talent drop, the past two years have been an anomaly for the program. Team batting average has especially been an alarming trend. As a result, many fans felt that a change in direction was best for the program, and have hoped that Athletic Director Blake James would make such a change. Coaches like UCF’s Greg Lovelady or Canes Pitching Coach JD Arteaga were popular candidates among the fanbase, but unsurprisingly DiMare was given the nod. Hopefully he can get the ship turned around soon, but if he can’t, one shouldn’t bet that fans will be patient.
Reasons for Optimism
Look, DiMare is going to be motivated to win. All cliches aside, he lives and breathes Miami Hurricanes baseball and has for decades.
Yes, the last two years have been disappointing. But to place the blame on a single assistant coach is absurd. Up to five of the eight position players on a given night this past season were freshman. I don’t know if many coaches in the country would finish above .500 with that kind of inexperience, yet the Hurricanes still won more than half of their games in 2018.
The lack of experience was not a lack of talent. While the bats went dry for portions of 2018, the batting averages of Freddy Zamora (.303), Willy Escala (.280), Issac Quinones (.291), and Raymond Gil (.234) all improved throughout the season.
Freshman shortstop Freddy Zamora (.310, 1 HR, 26 RBI) earned All-ACC Freshman Team honors. Zamora was named @CanesBaseball Team MVP and finished the regular season second on Miami in average, runs batted in and stolen bases (20). pic.twitter.com/xWUDtfzSlX— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) May 21, 2018
The rise of these young hitters as their careers continue will complement a stellar pitching staff that had the forth-best ERA in the Atlantic Coast Conference (3.74) throughout 2018.
Sophomore RHP Evan McKendry (7-6, 3.52 ERA) earned All-ACC Third Team honors. McKendry garnered three ACC Pitcher of the Week Awards in 2018. The Pembroke Pines, Florida, native was the first Hurricane to record 100+ strikeouts in a season since Bryan Radziewski in 2014. pic.twitter.com/Oa2LV6xi1m— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) May 21, 2018
And don’t forget DiMare’s biggest strength: Recruiting. As all classes are in a time of transition, the 2018 class was a bit down rankings wise, but ‘19 and ‘20 both see the Canes among the top five recruiting classes according to Perfect Game USA— including the #1 class in 2020.
The Deciding Factors
Obviously, things are not going to improve by themselves. First and foremost, a there must be a fielding improvement, regardless of whether that improvement comes directly from coaching or not. Miami committed 78 total fielding errors in 2018, an astounding number that was 25 higher than Miami’s opponents and tops in the conference.
Overall batting average must also continue to rise. While 2018’s .257 average was better than 2017’s .231, an improvement of another .020 or .025 could leap the Canes into the ACC’s top offensive tier.
Ultimately, however, nobody is going to over analyze batting average and fielding percentage. Wins and loses will strictly and quickly define DiMare’s ability to coach at Mark Light Field. If he wins a lot of games early, he is the Cane for life that was born for this job. If he struggles, he is the inexperienced coach who isn’t up to filling the shoes of a legend.
2019 can’t come soon enough.