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This Week in ‘Canes Baseball: April 11 Edition

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Miami goes on the road for an important ACC series this week.

Credit: Miami Athletics

After a two game mid-week sweep of FGCU Miami heads to Charlottesville to play the Virginia Cavaliers with a 22-12 (7-8 ACC) record on the season. The weekend series between the Cavaliers and the ‘Canes will have a huge impact on the ACC standings, and the weekend battle between two closely matched teams should be fun to watch.

Miami comes into the weekend with Friday starter Evan McKendry riding the momentum of a dominant performance against FSU that earned him ACC Pitcher of the Week Honors:

McKendry and the ‘Canes earned their first series win over Florida State since 2016 this weekend, and will hope to continue their recent run of play into this weekend’s matchup against UVA.

Virginia enters the weekend at 21-13 (8-7 ACC) after defeating Notre Dame in two of three games last weekend. The Cavaliers have been steady all season, and have largely won against the teams they should beat, which has pushed them ahead of the Hurricanes in the ACC Coastal race.

The division race has become incredibly interesting over the last several weeks. Virginia and Miami sit just one and two games out of first respectively, and the winner of this weekend’s series would gain a huge advantage in the race for the division title.

Miami continues to have one of the best offenses in the ACC. The ‘Canes are in the Top 5 in the ACC in nearly every offensive category. However, the Cavaliers have an offense that is nothing to scoff at either. The Cavaliers bat for the fourth best average in the conference at .290, and have produced the fifth most runs of the ACC teams at 223 on the season.

The Achilles Heel of the Cavaliers has been the pitching staff, which has a combined 4.41 ERA. Virginia walks a lot of batters, the third most in the ACC in fact, with 161 allowed on the year. If Miami’s young team can be patient this weekend, they could have a lot of success at the plate.

Virginia does not have a weekend starter over .500, and have a 4.57 ERA as a rotation. They also have allowed a .264 average against. Friday starter Griff McGarry has been the best starter for UVA all year, but struggles to go late into games, working just 37 and one thirds innings on the season, and averaging just four and two thirds per start.

The strength of the Cavaliers lies in the lineup. As a team the Cavaliers don’t hit for much power, with just 18 home runs. However, they swing for base hits and string them together to score runs. Five regular starters for UVA are batting over .300, led by Tanner Morris, who’s batting at a .358 clip on the year. Morris and Brendan Rivoli are the two biggest offensive threats for the Cavaliers, Rivoli leads the team with 5 home runs, and Morris is tied for second with four. Both of them hit for power, are patient at the plate, and will be tough outs all weekend.

Meanwhile, Miami’s rotation had a rough few weeks as of late, but got back on track last weekend. As previously mentioned Evan McKendry had a dominant start, and Chris McMahon followed him with a great start of his own Saturday. Sunday starter Brian Van Belle struggled, but he’s been the most consistent member of Miami’s pitching staff all season, and hopefully he’ll bounce back this weekend.

The bullpen was one of the biggest points of worry for Miami in the early season, and there is still a need for more consistency in middle innings. However, at the back end of the bullpen Daniel Federman and Greg Veliz have turned into a great set-up man and closer combination.

Miami continues to dominate at the plate with six of nine regular members of the lineup batting over .300 and Gabe Rivera just two hits away from breaking that mark. Alex Toral and Ray Gil continue to be a powerful punch in the middle of the lineup, with Toral leading the ACC in home runs with 14. The Hurricanes have also found a true lead off man in Jordan Lala, who has consistently gotten on base to set the plate for the power hitters farther down the lineup. In just a few months Miami’s coaching staff has turned what was a struggling offense into a balanced attack that is dangerous from top to bottom.

However, the difference in this series could be defense, and the ‘Canes fielding has been shaky all season. Miami lost their chance at a sweep because of errors on Sunday, and they have over 40 errors as a team. Virginia is one of the best fielding teams in the ACC, and if they can limit their errors and force Miami to make mistakes in the field this weekend it could be the difference in the series.

The Hurricanes have a chance to win a huge series this weekend if they play complete games like they did Friday and Saturday against FSU, but if they make too many errors and struggle in the field it could cost them a shot at a division title. The margin for error this weekend is small, and Miami will need consistent play to win a tough series on the road.

Prediction: Miami wins the series, 2-1.

Series Info

Game 1

Date & Time: Friday, April 12, 6:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Evan McKendry (5-1, 3.91 ERA)

Virginia Starter: Griff McGarry (2-4, 4.34 ERA)

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Television: ACC Network Extra

Game 2

Date & Time: Saturday, April 13, 4:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Chris McMahon (2-2, 4.53 ERA)

Virginia Starter: Noah Murdock (2-2, 4.40 ERA)

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Television: ACC Network Extra

Game 3

Date & Time: Sunday, April 14, 1:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Brian Van Belle (4-2, 3.59 ERA)

Virginia Starter: Mike Vasil (1-3, 4.95 ERA)

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Television: ACC Network Extra