The University of Miami baseball team started off its 2004 campaign in a big way on Saturday night at Mark Light Stadium. In front of 2,016 fans, this year’s squad pummeled the Alumni Team by a score of 14-0.
Not only did the Hurricanes make it look easy, but they also did it against some of the best names in Hurricane baseball history. Names from the past four years alone were enough to make ‘Canes fans realize that football is not the only sport this school has dominated over the past four years.
“This is great fun, playing this game every year,” Head Coach Jim Morris said. “There are so many great players here and we have a few major leaguers, too. It’s great to play these guys, and it’s even more fun when we win.”
Names like Charleton Jimerson, Marcus Nettles, Tom Farmer, Kris Clute, Brian Walker, and Javy Rodriguez rang through the scratchy PA system at Mark Light Stadium, bringing back great memories of days gone by. All in all, 33 alumni returned to the Light for this year’s game.
Former Hurricane and current Florida Marlin Michael Neu started the game on the mound for the Alumni. He was greeted by a stacked 2004 Hurricane lineup that is returning all of its starting position players from a year ago. He was also bid adieu by the same lineup as the ‘Canes exploded for seven runs on four hits in that opening inning. That was more than enough for Miami as it completed the shutout and started off its season on a positive note.
The ‘Canes will begin their regular season with high expectations. For the first time in his career, Morris has all of his starting position players returning. Miami begins the season ranked anywhere from first (co-leader with defending champion Rice University) to fifth in the major polls.
The mood may have been jovial on Saturday night, but Feb. 13 will be a completely different story. UM will get down to business as it opens the regular season against rival Florida in the first game of a three-game series. The schedule will not get any easier after that as the ‘Canes will take on Tennessee the following weekend.
The starting lineup for Miami will be as follows: Senior and team leader Jim Burt will start at first base. Adam Ricks and Ryan Braun are back to take on the second base and shortstop positions, respectively. Braun will be looking to follow up on his stellar season of a year ago that helped to send Miami back to the College World Series.
Gaby Sanchez returns at third base with Erick San Pedro calling the shots from behind the plate.
In the outfield, the Hurricanes’ starting three look to be Richard Giannotti, Brian Barton, and Joey Hooft. Barton, who had three hits, including two triples, against the Alumni, will be filling in for the injured Danny Figueroa, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Danny’s twin brother Paco should also see some time in center field in his absence. Hooft is coming off a phenomenal off-season and will look to make a statement in the ‘Canes lineup early on.
As far as pitching is concerned, the Hurricanes have plenty of that as well. Starters J.D. Cockroft, Brandon Camardese, Vince Bongiovanni, and 2002 ace Dan Touchet look to be the front-runners for spots in this year’s starting rotation. Touchet returns after sitting out last season to recover from elbow surgery. George Huguet and Shawn Valdes-Fauli should continue to be the leaders out of the bullpen this season.
The ‘Canes will be retiring the number of former player and current major leaguer Pat Burrell before the game against the Gators on Friday night. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Ryan Ellis can be contacted at email@example.com.