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This Week in ‘Canes Baseball: February 14 Edition

Miami starts off their highly anticipated 2020 campaign Friday.

Credit: Miami Athletics

The Miami Hurricanes begin their highly anticipated 2020 campaign at 7 p.m. Friday against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Miami, a consensus top-10 team heading into the season, will hope to rise to the expectations this season. The Hurricanes have a very good chance to return to Omaha for the first time since 2016.

Unfortunately, the season got off to a rough start. On Thursday it was announced that star shortstop Freddy Zamora would miss the entirety of the 2020 season due to a knee injury.

In happier news, two Hurricanes, C Adrian Del Castillo and RHP Chris McMahon, were named to the preseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award. The award is given to the best amateur baseball player each year. Both players are outstanding, and each could be poised for All-American seasons. McMahon is also a Top 100 MLB Draft prospect heading into the season.

Weekend Series: Vs Rutgers Scarlet Knights

This weekend, Miami and Rutgers will start their year with a weekend series just like they have every season since 2015. Rutgers is entering a new era in their program with a new head coach in Steve Owens.

Owens is an extremely talented head coach who was hired at Rutgers after an extremely successful stint at Bryant University. Owens is hoping to build a program that has struggled in recent years, but he has the pedigree to do so, with almost 1,000 wins for his career.

Owens will coach a roster that sees a substantial amount of talent return in 2020. The Knights return their entire weekend rotation from 2019. The ace is junior left-hander Harry Rutkowski. Rutkowski led the Knights in innings pitched and strikeouts last season, with 81.2 and 83 respectively, and is poised for an even better year in 2020. Saturday and Sunday starters Tommy Genuario and Tevin Murray are excellent as well, each pitched to a sub 4.00 ERA last season.

On offense, the Knights are led by outfielder Mike Nyisztor. Nyisztor was Rutgers’ leading hitter last season and he anchors their lineup. Tim Dezzi and Kevin Welsh are also key contributors to the Knights offensively. Welsh led the nights in RBI and slugging percentage last season and Dezzi is an all-around hitter who is a key middle of the order bat.

Rutgers also returns Chris Brito, who led RU in on-base percentage last season and was the Knights’ best player in the series against Miami last year. Brito is a good player and could be poised for a big step forward this season.

For Miami, this weekend is key to settling into a season where an extreme amount of pressure surrounds the squad. Brian Van Belle will try to settle into his role as Miami’s Friday night starter and ace. Van Belle was Miami’s most consistent pitcher last season, and consistency will be key as he starts the season on Friday and as he starts series for the rest of the season. Slade Cecconi is another player moving into a bigger role. Cecconi will move into the weekend rotation full-time as the Sunday starter, a place where he’ll hope to showcase the improvement he’s made since last season.

The biggest test for anyone this season will be the move from second base to shortstop for Anthony Vilar. Vilar played limited innings at shortstop last year, and moving to that spot permanently with the loss of Zamora for the season will be a challenge. JUCO transfer Josh Lauck seems the most likely candidate to replace him at second base after starting as the 10th hitter in Miami’s lineup for the alumni game last week. Tyler Paige and Luis Tuero are other options to start at second base, and all three players will now see more playing time this season.

Miami will hope to show their talent this weekend and get off to a great start to the year. A strong start will be crucial this weekend as the ‘Canes hope to settle into the year before facing the Florida Gators next weekend.

Series Info

Game 1

Date & Time: Friday, February 14, 7:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Brian Van Belle (2019: 10-2, 3.30 ERA)

Rutgers Starter: Harry Rutkowski (2019: 2-6, 4.08 ERA)

Radio: 790 The Ticket / WVUM 90.5 FM

Television: ACC Network Extra

Game 2

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

Hurricanes Starter: Chris McMahon (2019: 3-2, 3.73 ERA)

Rutgers Starter: Tommy Genuario (2019: 3-5, 3.14 ERA)

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Television: ACC Network Extra

Game 3

Date & Time: Sunday, February 16, 1:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Slade Cecconi (2019: 5-4, 4.16 ERA)

Rutgers Starter: Tevin Murray (2019: 4-5, 3.01 ERA)

Radio: 790 The Ticket / WVUM 90.5 FM / 990 AM Unanimo Deportes

Television: ACC Network Extra