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This Week in ‘Canes Baseball: February 18 Edition

Miami has one of the biggest series of the college baseball season coming up this weekend.

Credit: Miami Athletics

This week will be one of Miami’s toughest of the season. The Hurricanes will play their first mid-week game of the season against one of the preseason MAC favorites in Kent State, and then the weekend sees a series against the second-ranked Florida Gators.

The Hurricanes got off to a great start to the season, with a sweep of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The sweep pushed the Hurricanes up in the polls, with Miami a consensus Top-3 team and ranked No.1 by D1Baseball:

After one week Miami is one of the ACC’s best teams by both the eye test and the statistics. The Hurricanes rank third in the conference in batting average, and, in a significant improvement from last year, fourth in the conference in fielding percentage. Miami catcher Adrian Del Castillo also leads the ACC in slugging percentage through the first week of the season, and teammate Gabe Rivera is ninth in the conference in RBIs with five. After Adrian Del Castillo’s fantastic week, he was named ACC Player of the Week for the first week of the season:

Mid-Week Game Vs Kent State Golden Flashes

Kent State is a very solid team from the MAC. The Golden Flashes have a lot of talent and have a really good chance at winning their conference and getting an auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament later in the year.

The Golden Flashes started their season with a tournament last weekend. Their season started with a close loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes, but later on Kent State played well and got two wins over Indiana State and Saint Joseph’s to close out the week at 2-1.

Kent State is led at the plate by Ben Carew. Carew is off to a great start in 2020, with an OPS of 1.000 after having a .406 average last year to go along with 31 RBI. Freshman Mack Timbrook has also been key for Kent State so far this season, with a .900 OPS that’s mainly due to an amazing .500 on-base percentage.

Miami hasn’t announced a starter for Wednesday’s game yet, but two freshmen, Alex McFarlane and Jake Garland, figure to be the prime candidates to start now that Tyler Keysor is the set-up man in the bullpen.

Both McFarlane and Garland saw action against Rutgers last weekend. Each pitched well, and both have a future as a starter for the Hurricanes. McFarlane worked two great innings on Sunday, showing off a fantastic changeup to go along with a great fastball with amazing arm-side movement that he controls excellently. Garland was fantastic in relief in game three of the series, striking out the side on 11 pitches. As a result, Miami has two great options to go to for Wednesday’s game.

Miami will have a tough challenge on Wednesday no matter who starts, and they can’t afford to get caught looking ahead to their weekend series against Florida if they want to beat the Golden Flashes.

Game Info

Date & Time: Wednesday, February 19, 6:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Not announced

Kent State Starter: Not announced

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM

Television: ACC Network Extra

Weekend Series Vs No.2 Florida Gators

COLLEGE BASEBALL: FEB 22 Miami at Florida Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The most highly anticipated matchup of the college baseball season so far will take place at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables this weekend. The Hurricanes and Gators face-off in what could be one of the most important series of each team’s season.

Florida comes into this season off of a down 2019, but this year the Gators are right back at the top of college baseball. UF has a starting rotation and starting lineup that can go toe-to-toe with Miami’s, and this weekend will be no easy task for the Hurricanes.

The Gators are led on the mound by junior Tommy Mace, the ace of the pitching staff. Mace had a rough 2019, pitching to a 5.32 ERA, but he put together a great first start of 2020 in a win against Marshall and the Florida coaching staff expects big things from him. Saturday and Sunday starters Jack Leftwich and Nick Pogue also have great talent, although Pogue struggled in his first start of the season last Sunday.

Florida’s pitching staff has a lot of talent, but they still have a lot to prove this season. UF’s starting staff and bullpen struggled last year, but they’ll hope to show the improvement they’ve made this weekend.

On offense the Gators have an abundance of talent. Florida scored 34 runs in their weekend series against Marshall last week, and they’ll hope to keep the bats going this week against Miami. Jacob Young is Florida’s leading returning hitter, the sophomore batted .311 last season and will hope to continue that into this year, although he got off to a rough start last weekend. Senior Kirby McMullen is off to the best start for the Gators so far this season, with a 1.769 OPS and three doubles in just eight at-bats.

For Miami, the biggest challenge in winning this series may be the mental challenges facing the Hurricanes, who have lost every series against Florida since 2014. Gators Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan is 31-13 against Miami, and the ‘Canes will head into the weekend hoping to reverse six years of bad play and bad luck.

To do that, the Hurricanes will need good starts from Brian Van Belle, Chris McMahon, and Slade Cecconi. Each of them had a great start and got their first win of the season against Rutgers, and this week will see a tougher challenge for one of the best rotations in the country. McMahon, in particular, will be key. He saw a great start against the Gators result in a loss in the Saturday game last season, and Miami will need him to be sharp in what could be the most important game of the series Saturday night.

Miami’s offense will need to see an increase in production out of the lead-off spot to have success this weekend. Jordan Lala struggled last week against Rutgers, getting just two hits in the series, and he’ll need to get on base more often to set the table for the middle of Miami’s lineup. It will also be crucial for the Hurricanes to see Alex Toral return to form, he had just one single against the Scarlet Knights, and Miami will need him to do more than that this weekend in order to come out on top.

This weekend series is one of the biggest in recent memory for the Hurricanes. Miami will hope for their first series win over the Gators in far too long, and with it, a consensus No.1 ranking in next week’s polls.

Series Info

Game 1

Date & Time: Friday, February 21, 7:00 P.M. Eastern

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

Florida Starter: Tommy Mace (1-0, 3.00 ERA)

Radio: 99.9 FM WKIS HD-2 / WVUM 90.5 FM

Television: ACC Network Extra

Game 2

Date & Time: Saturday, February 22, 7:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Chris McMahon (1-0, 3.00 ERA)

Florida Starter: Jack Leftwich (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM / 990 AM Unanimo Deportes

Television: ACC Network Extra

Game 3

Date & Time: Sunday, February 23, 1:00 P.M. Eastern

Hurricanes Starter: Slade Cecconi (1-0, 1.50 ERA)

Florida Starter: Nick Pogue (0-0, 22.50 ERA)

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