In 2020, Miami hopes to make it back to Omaha, Nebraska for the College World Series for the first time since 2016. To do that, the Hurricanes will have to navigate one of the toughest schedules in the country yet again. Fortunately for Miami, most of the toughest series of the year are at Mark Light Field, but there’s no easy weeks for Miami in 2020.
The ACC will again be one of the best conferences in the nation this year. The Coastal Division in particular has improved greatly over the last year, with the emergence of programs like Georgia Tech and Duke as legitimate ACC Championship contenders to go along with more established baseball programs like North Carolina, Virginia, and Miami.
February 21-23: Vs Florida Gators
Miami’s traditional second week of the season series against Florida is always the biggest non-conference three-game set of the season. Last year the Gators managed to take two-of-three from Miami in Gainesville, despite an otherwise terrible start to the season that left many convinced there was no way the Gators would make the NCAA Tournament.
However, Florida came on strong at the end of the year to indeed make the tournament, with one of the primary reasons for the committee’s inclusion of the Gators being strong non-conference opponents. The series win over Miami came as the prime support of that reasoning, so the Hurricanes will no doubt remember that this season as they look for their first series win over the Gators since 2014.
Miami will need to watch out for Florida. The Gators have a young team, but despite that this should be a bounceback year for Kevin O’Sullivan’s squad. UF is expected to be a national title contender, just like the ‘Canes, and this will be a heavyweight slugfest early on in the year.
March 6-8: Vs Pittsburgh Panthers
On the surface, a series against Pittsburgh may not seem like an important set for the ‘Canes. Miami will be expected to win the series at the very least, and there’s a great opportunity for a sweep of the Panthers in this weekend set.
The importance of this series comes from its’ timing. This is the first ACC series of the year for Miami. Plus, Miami’s worst series of the year last season arguably was against the Panthers. The Hurricanes won the series that weekend, but Pitt had won just one other conference game, was playing very poorly at the time, and destroyed Miami’s pitching in a weekend that left the ‘Canes lacking confidence.
This season, Miami will need those memories to be forgotten and play well enough to earn a a crucial sweep to get a great start to the conference season.
March 20-22: Vs Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia is simply one of the best programs in collegiate baseball, and any series against them will be a challenge. The Cavaliers are well coached, play fundamentally sound baseball, and have a lot of talent.
UVA hopes to return to national prominence after a down 2019, which mostly came as a result of an incredibly large amount of significant injuries. Those hopes took their first steps towards becoming a reality when the Cavaliers had a dominant fall. UVA played three games against outside opponents, winning 11-3 over Liberty, 17-3 over the Ontario Blue Jays (Canadian Amateur Program), and 15-10 over a strong East Carolina team.
The Cavaliers will be a threat in the ACC Coastal in 2020, and this will be Miami’s biggest series by far in the early part of their conference schedule.
March 27-29: @ Duke Blue Devils
When it’s argued that Duke is now one of the toughest series on the Hurricanes’ schedule each season people often scoff at it. However, Chris Pollard has built one of the most consistent programs in the ACC out of almost nothing. Just a decade ago Duke was perennially a bottom-feeder in the ACC, but now the Blue Devils are consistently in contention for a tournament spot, and every few years, a conference title.
Last year will be looked on as “what could have been,” for the Blue Devils. Duke did manage to make the NCAA Tournament, and even made it to the Super Regionals and gave eventual national champions Vanderbilt a scare before losing in three games. Despite that strong tournament performance, the Blue Devils played most of the season without their best player, Graeme Stinson, and that left many wondering how much better Duke would have been with him.
This season Duke will be replacing Stinson and leading hitter Kennie Taylor. The Blue Devils are still very talented though, and they could be a surprise Coastal Title contender in 2020, making this series crucial for the ‘Canes.
April 10-12: Vs North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina has become one of the premier baseball programs in the country under Mike Fox. In 2020, this weekend series should be a heavyweight, highly-ranked matchup that has serious implications for the ACC title. To make things even more important for Miami, this series begins a three-weekend stretch where the ‘Canes play UNC, Louisville, and Florida State.
The Tar Heels are coming off of a 46-19 2020 that saw them make it all the way to the NCAA Super Regionals before they lost to Auburn in three games to be eliminated from the tournament. The Tar Heels return last year’s ACC Freshman of the Year Aaron Sabato in 2020, along with multiple other All-ACC team selections.
UNC has comparable talent to the Hurricanes, and some of the best coaching in the nation. Miami will have to bring their best this weekend in early April in what could be the toughest series of the year.
April 17-19: Vs Louisville Cardinals
Last season Louisville was one of the best teams in the country. The Cardinals pushed national champions Vanderbilt to the very edge of elimination before faltering in the late innings of a play-in game for the College World Series final. In 2020 the Cardinals will need to replace some key pieces, but they’ll remain one of America’s most talented teams.
The Hurricanes managed to steal one on the road against Louisville last season, but this year they’ll hope for more than just one victory at home. This series will be especially important for ACC Tournament seeding, and potentially NCAA Tournament seeding.
Miami’s series against UL comes in the middle of the toughest stretch of the season which will make an already difficult three-game set even harder. The ‘Canes will lean on their pitching heavily against an always offensively talented Cardinals team.
April 24-26: @ Florida State Seminoles
For the first time in what seems like forever, Mike Martin will not be the Head Coach of the Florida State Seminoles when Miami plays in their annual series with their rivals to the north. Instead his son, Mike Martin Jr., will get his first taste of the rivalry as the man in charge at FSU in late April.
Martin Jr. will hope to replicate the success that Gino DiMare had in his first time at the helm in the series last year. Expectations are always high at FSU, and after coming off an up-and-down 2019 that saw the ‘Noles make it all the way to Omaha after a terrible start to the season, many will hope for FSU to make another run to the College World Series in 2020.
This series is always one of the biggest of the year for each team, no matter the records of each side or their rankings. This season should see this series return to being a marquee ranked matchup that will draw the attention of the entire country after a few years where it was played without it’s traditional ramifications.
May 14-16: @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Last season Georgia Tech was one of the best teams in the country. The Yellow Jackets won 43 games and hosted a regional before falling to Auburn to be eliminated from the tournament.
In 2020 the Yellow Jackets might take a step back, but should still be a contender for the ACC Coastal Division crown. This series between Miami and GT, which comes in the final weekend of the regular season, could have major implications on the outcome of the conference.
Last year the ‘Canes managed to take two-of-three from the Yellow Jackets at home. Atlanta is a tough place to travel to, but the Hurricanes will have a chance for one last statement series win in the last weekend of the season in hopes of becoming a national seed.
The ‘Canes have several challenging series on their schedule, but fortunately for Miami most of them are at home. The schedule sets up nicely for the Hurricanes to make a strong run in 2020.