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This Week in Hurricanes Baseball: February 19 Edition

Miami faces one of their toughest weeks of this season this week.

Credit: Miami Athletics

The Hurricanes started the 2019 season with a sweep of Rutgers over the weekend. Several Hurricanes had great performances, and they’ll need to continue that with a tough week ahead. The sweep gave the Hurricanes their first 3-0 start since 2016, which was enough to earn Miami a No.30 Ranking in this week’s Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Poll:

Mid-Week Game: Vs Florida Atlantic Owls (3-0)

Florida Atlantic started their season with a sweep over the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Owls have been a thorn in the Hurricanes side over the last several seasons, sweeping the season series last year. FAU has consistently improved as a program over the last several seasons, and now they seem to compete for a spot in the NCAA Tournament year after year. 2019 should be no different. Miami faces the danger of overlooking a very talented team in FAU, but Coach DiMare said on Sunday that, “right now we’re focused on beating FAU, they beat us three times last year... I didn’t even mention Florida [to the team] yet.”

Slade Cecconi will take the mound for the Hurricanes on Wednesday in his first ever start. The talented freshman made his debut for the Hurricanes on Saturday against Rutgers, throwing two scoreless frames. Cecconi was ranked as the second best freshman in the ACC ahead of the season, and Miami will need him to perform well to get off to a good start in a tough week.

This will not be the first time Cecconi has faced FAU. He pitched against the Owls in an exhibition game this fall and threw extremely well. Striking out three consecutive batters on around 15 pitches at one point.

The FAU lineup has a lot of talent. The centerpiece is junior Eric Rivera, who returns for his junior season in 2019 after leading the Owls in RBI with fifty last season. He’s the leader of FAU’s team and a player Miami must account for Wednesday. Joe Montes is another key player for the Owls, he plays at the hot corner and led the Owls in hits last season. Montes has started the season off on an extremely good note: batting .455 through three games.

Freshman Hunter Cooley is tentatively set to take the mound for the Owls against the Hurricanes, though things could change before Wednesday. Cooley, a freshman, made his debut for the Owls against Cincinnati and earned a win in 1.1 innings of relief. He allowed no runs and just two hits in that appearance.

The mid-week struggles of the last two seasons have been largely responsible for the failure of Miami to make the NCAA Tournament. The Hurricanes can no longer afford to overlook or underestimate mid-week opponents, and they’ll need to remember that starting on Wednesday.

Prediction: Miami wins, 5-4.

Game Info:

Date & Time: Wednesday, February 20th, 6:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Slade Cecconi (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

FAU Starter: Hunter Cooley (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Television: ACC Network Extra

Weekend Series: At No.5 Florida Gators (3-0)

Florida has been one of the most consistent programs in America under Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan, and they return a plethora of talent in 2019 that is joined by a talented young group of freshmen. The Gators started off their season with a three game sweep of Long Beach State last weekend, and Miami will hope to find success that LBSU couldn’t this weekend.

Alfred A. McKethan stadium is a difficult place to play, and the last time the Hurricanes visited the stadium it didn’t treat them kindly, as Miami was swept there in 2017. Miami has lost the series against Florida seemingly every year for the last ten seasons, and a young team will have to mature fast in order to avoid the same fate.

Florida will do everything in their power to beat Miami this weekend. Nelson Maldanado and Wil Dalton will look to get more comfortable in their roles as the centerpiece of Florida’s lineup this weekend. They both are extremely talented players, and UF will rely on them to anchor a lineup that has a lot of new faces in it. Both of them have a good start against LBSU to build on ahead of this weekend’s clash of rivals.

The pitching staff for Florida is talented as always. Friday starter Tyler Dyson is one of the best pitchers in the SEC, and has settled into his new role as the Gators’ ace nicely so far this season. Two sophomores round out the Florida pitching staff in Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich. The trio all pitched well last weekend, and Miami will have to prove that the thirty-five run outburst last weekend against Rutgers was no fluke against much stiffer competition this weekend.

Miami will attempt to win the series on the back of a talented staff of their own. Evan McKendry was the winning pitcher in the ‘Canes lone win against the Gators last season, and he’ll look to keep UF off balance again this time around. For Saturday and Sunday starters Chris McMahon and Brian Van Belle, Florida is the most talented team either has ever pitched against. Both must show poise and maturity in order to give the Hurricanes a shot in Gainesville.

The Hurricanes will attempt to continue their positive momentum at the plate this weekend. Henry Vilar and Freddy Zamora will look to continue their form as a 1-2 punch at the plate in Gainesville. Vilar in particular will look to build off a four for four, two double performance in the finale of last weekend’s series against Rutgers. Miami has shown a lot of aggression swinging the bat and running the bases in the young season so far. With fewer baserunners this weekend, taking advantage of every opportunity presented to them will be crucial for Miami. Great baserunners like Jordan Lala and Tony Jenkins will play an especially important role over the weekend, and Coach DiMare will hope that they can manufacture runs and distract Florida’s pitchers throughout the series.

Florida is a consensus top 10 team for a reason, and this weekend will be one of the toughest series Miami will play all season. Nothing will be given to the ‘Canes in this three game set, and poise and maturity will be required out of a young team in order to have success.

Prediction: Florida wins the series, 2-1.

Series Info:

Game 1:

Date & Time: Friday, February 22, 6:30 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Evan McKendry (1-0, 3.00 ERA)

Florida Starter: Tyler Dyson (0-0, 2.70 ERA)

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Television: SEC Network+

Game 2:

Date & Time: Saturday, February 23, 6:30 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Chris McMahon (1-0, 1.80 ERA)

Florida Starter: Tommy Mace (1-0, 2.57 ERA)

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Television: SEC Network+

Game 3:

Date & Time: Sunday, February 24, 1:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Brian Van Belle (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Florida Starter: Jack Leftwich (1-0, 1.50 ERA)

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Television: SEC Network+