The Hurricanes once again received a welcome to the ACC with the opening of baseball season, in which they are ranked second in the conference.
High expectations have been placed on the ‘Canes as they work through their schedule in hopes of ultimately ending up in Omaha for the College World Series. The team will play a number of road games that were not previously part of the schedule as a result of moving to the new conference. The squad will trek to Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia and Clemson. Last year, the team only traveled to Tallahassee to take on Florida State and Atlanta to play Georgia Tech.
“The most challenging part of this season and will be adjusting to the amount of traveling, which is part of joining the ACC,” said Head Coach Jim Morris.
Currently ranked fifth in national preseason polls, Miami has its eyes set on a national championship, which would be the fifth in ‘Canes history.
“Our goal each year is the same: to go to Omaha and win,” Morris said. “It’s something we have been able to accomplish in the past and we will be working toward that again. As part of the ACC we have a different avenue to our goal than ever before, but not necessarily more difficult.”
After losing five starters from the 2004 season to the Major League draft, the team will encounter a few changes in the lineup. A new first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, catcher and two outfielders are among the tentative adjustments.
Despite the uncertainty in defining roles for each player, talent is an unquestionable aspect of the Miami team. The versatility of several players, coupled with two All-American candidates in junior shortstop Ryan Braun and junior pitcher Cesar Carrillo, contributes to the X-factor that makes ‘Canes baseball successful each year.
“We’re all really close to each other and that is what makes us a team on and off the field,” he said.
The team has only five seniors to the roster, leaving room for underclassmen to prove their skill level on the field. Sophomores Jon Jay, Roger Tomas and Danny Gil have surpassed the expectations held for them. Jay returns with an impressive list of accolades from his freshman season, including a .368 batting average, six home runs, and 56 RBI. Tomas stepped in last season at shortstop after Braun became injured. He proved himself as a valuable asset to the team and was named to the 2004 College World Series All-Tournament team. Gil made his freshman debut last year as pitcher in the second half of the 2004 season and his potential continues to grow.
Morris enters his 12th year as the head coach, hoping to obtain his third national championship at Miami. His experience, knowledge of the game and understanding of the ACC provide the confidence required to lead the ‘Canes to victory.
“My coaching philosophy is simple, but effective: play hard and have fun,” Morris said.
Stacey Arnold can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.