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“Keep striving”: Miami seeks momentum flow in first ACC showdown

The Hurricanes left Gainesville on Sunday with a monumental series win and have remained prepared mentally as a top-five nationally ranked team.

COLLEGE BASEBALL: FEB 22 Miami at Florida
Hurricanes head coach Gino DiMare looks on during the college baseball game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Florida Gators at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium on Feb. 22, 2019 (Gainesville, Florida).
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Miami Hurricanes center-fielder Tony Jenkins made the series-clinching grab in the outfield of the new Florida Ballpark to give his school’s athletics program something big to smile about. The team had not won in Gainesville, Florida, since 2009.

A lack of mental toughness did not hinder the Canes’ performance on the road, and they plan on keeping the right juices pumping at Mark Light Field this weekend.

“I didn’t see any panic from anybody,” said Miami head coach Gino DiMare on his team’s response to various forms of adversity faced at Florida. The Canes rallied back from an early-inning deficit to win the series’ second game 10-9 in a 13-inning thriller.

Four days have passed after having defeated a consensus No. 1 ranked team in the Florida Gators, and the top-five Miami Hurricanes have already turned the page in preparation for a three-game home set versus Virginia Tech. The series will be Miami’s first at home this season, as a limited number of fans will be in attendance.

“I’m pretty sure we were ranked No. 1 last year at one point,” said Miami third baseman Raymond Gil on the team’s elevated rankings this week. “We talked about it Tuesday that we do have to turn the page and focus on Virginia Tech, and take it one series at a time.”

Having received a blast of production from its newcomers — freshmen and transfers — Miami seeks that to be replicated against a Hokies team that ranked second-to-last in the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball preseason rankings two weeks ago.

“This freshman class is as talented as it might just be as strong character wise,” DiMare said. “I’m very high on this freshman class and the rookies [we have].”

Miami head coach Gino DiMare, who has gone 3-0 in opening series victories through his three-year tenure in Coral Gables, Florida, remains confident in his team to produce the expected results as ACC play opens.

DiMare said that the team cannot get “caught up in the rankings,” at such an early point in the 50-game season, in which the ACC-heavy 36-game gauntlet has yet to kick off.

“I’m sure they’re going to see us a little bit differently,” said Jenkins on conference opponents’ perceptions on top-ranked Miami. “It’s definitely exciting to be ranked No. 1, but at the same time we still gotta have the drive, the work ethic, and we just gotta stay there … Our ultimate goal is to win a national championship.”

Virginia Tech is led by fourth year head coach John Szefc and Freshman All-American pitcher and outfielder Gavin Cross, who recorded three hits versus Georgia Tech last March and totaled 24 on the season.

Miami’s bullpen enters the series prepared to counter Virginia Tech’s attack from the plate, as the 3-0 Hokies totaled 34 runs in their opening weekend versus Kent State and Radford.

“I think every arm that we’ve shown this past weekend did fairly well,” second-year freshman reliever Carson Palmquist said. “Just like a few things people have got to fix, like getting ahead early, throwing more strikes, not walking batters.”

Right-handed starting pitcher Daniel Federman will take the mound once again this Friday, looking to bounce back strong from a turbulent first outing of the season last week. The junior made seven bullpen appearances last season, registering a 1.62 ERA and allowed four earned runs last week.

Regardless of the scoreboard’s deficit, Miami’s consistent mentality witnessed against the Gators will help in battles all season long.

“We’re never out of the game, no matter how much we’re down,” said Gil on the team’s persevering mindset. The junior hit a home run in the team’s 8-6 victory in the rubber game on Sunday, having logged three through 16 games last season.

Miami and Virginia Tech will take the diamond at 7 p.m. on Friday, as the game will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.

“It’s going to be a big test,” DiMare said. “Every weekend’s gonna be ACC games moving forward, except one. I feel like the schedule this year’s gonna be the toughest schedule we’ve ever played, and I’m not just saying it as a typical quoted coach says, I absolutely mean it. When you add six ACC games and you take away six games which will be mid-week games, and our conference is probably as deep as it’s ever been.”