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This Week in Hurricanes Baseball: February 13 Edition

It’s baseball season yet again!

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Miami vs UC Santa Barbara Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Hurricanes baseball gets underway for the 75th season in program history this Friday. The ‘Canes open the season against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights for the ninth time in ten seasons this year. With Miami hoping to gets its’ first season opening sweep since 2016 ahead of playing Florida next weekend.

The Hurricanes come into this season with expectations lowered, their only ranking saw them at No.33 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper preseason poll, and several outlets expect the Hurricanes to be one of the last teams into the NCAA Tournament come selection time.

With a challenging schedule and so much youth on the roster, series against weaker opponents such as Rutgers become even more important for the Hurricanes. Getting the year off on the right foot, which didn’t happen in 2017 and 2018, is crucial this season.

The starting rotation to begin the season was announced on Tuesday; Evan McKendry is the ace, he’ll take the mound on Fridays for the Hurricanes, Chris McMahon will start on Saturdays, and Broward College transfer Brian Van Belle will start on Sundays.

Coach DiMare said that Van Belle “may have made the biggest jump,” of anyone in practice and that “he got better and better every time he pitched.” DiMare added that the Hurricanes coaching staff will evaluate the pitching staff after this weekend and then decide on a mid-week starter against FAU for next Wednesday.

The closer on the pitching staff will be a freshman, JP Gates, a highly touted recruit that many expected to be drafted and go to the MLB. Gates will have big shoes to fill in the wake of the departure of Frankie Bartow. Daniel Federman will serve as the set-up man, and will hope to build off a tremendous freshman season in 2019.

Weekend Series: Vs Rutgers Scarlet Knights

The Miami Hurricanes traditional season-opening opponent returns to Mark Light Field this year. The Scarlet Knights will hope to have the same success this weekend as they have had each of the last two seasons, when they took one game in the series, as opposed to the sweep they normally suffer at the hands of the Hurricanes. For Miami this is the first test for a new team that sees a lot of players move into significantly larger roles.

Rutgers has been steadily improving under head coach Joe Litterio, but have a lot of newcomers this season, with 16 players, nearly half of the roster, new to the program. Nevertheless Rutgers returns a lot of names that will be familiar to Miami fans.

Infielder Carmon Sclafani and outfielder Luke Bowerbank anchor the lineup for the Scarlet Knights. Sclafani has played well against Miami in the last three seasons, and is the most experienced player on Rutgers’ team, with 124 games played for Rutgers. Bowerbank is one of the best contact hitters in the Big Ten, batting for a .303 average last year. Two newcomers, David Soto and Chris Brito, are expected to start at shortstop and first base respectively in the wake of a few injuries. Brito was a three-time first team all-conference selection in high school baseball in New Jersey.

Another freshman, Peter Serruto, is a newcomer to keep an eye on this weekend for Rutgers. Serruto was drafted in the 22nd Round of last year’s MLB Draft by the Cincinnati Reds, but chose to play college baseball instead. He was the best catcher in the state of New Jersey last season according to Perfect Game, and he’ll hope to make an impact for Rutgers in his freshman season.

The rotation returns a lot of experience for the Scarlet Knights in 2019. Senior Serafino Brito may be familiar to many Miami fans, and he comes into this season as the Knights’s ace and most experienced pitcher, with 25 starts. Additionally sophomore Harry Rutkowski returns for Rutgers, he led the team in strikeouts last season with 54 Ks on the year and hopes to improve on that number this year. The final member of the rotation is Tevin Murray, a junior who pitched mostly out of the bullpen in 2018 with a 5.09 ERA in 18 appearances.

Rutgers is a program that is trying to consistently get better with time, and hopes to make a big jump in the Big Ten this season. The Knights have a solid roster of talent with a lot of experience in key areas. They’ll hope that experience can propel them to success this weekend and throughout the season.

Miami hopes that this weekend will jump-start a season that is more successful than the previous two. The Hurricanes will need to sweep this series and get off to a better start in 2019 than they did in 2017 and 2018 to begin to avoid the same fate that the previous two Miami teams have suffered.

The Hurricanes will see a lot of new faces take the field throughout the weekend. Junior college transfer Brian Van Belle will take the mound on Sunday as the final member of Miami’s weekend rotation, and will hope to showcase the progress he has made throughout the fall on the field. Additionally freshmen Adrian Del Castillo and Henry Vilar will hope to get a good start to their Miami careers this weekend. Both of them will see the field often this season, and there are high hopes for Del Castillo’s ability to help improve Miami’s offense.

In previous years Rutgers would be viewed as an easier opponent, but after the last two seasons the Hurricanes need to prove themselves. A young team, led by no seniors and a handful of juniors, will need to prove that this season will be different from the last two, and it should start with a sweep this weekend.

Prediction: Miami sweeps Rutgers, 3-0.

Game Info

Game 1

Date & Time: Friday, February 15, 7:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Evan McKendry (7-6, 3.52 ERA)*

Rutgers Starter: Serafino Brito (1-2, 3.57 ERA)*

Radio: 790 The Ticket

Television: ACC Network Extra

Game 2

Date & Time: Saturday, February 16, 7:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Chris McMahon (1-1, 4.44 ERA)*

Rutgers Starter: Harry Rutkowski (4-6, 5.34 ERA)*

Radio: 790 The Ticket

Television: ACC Network Extra

Game 3

Date & Time: Sunday, February 17, 12:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Brain Van Belle (5-1, 4.15 ERA at Broward College)*

Rutgers Starter: Tevin Murray (0-1, 5.09 ERA)*

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM / 990 ESPN Deportes

Television: ACC Network Extra

* = Statistics from 2018 season.