The murderous stretch of road through Atlantic Coast Conference play continues this weekend for the Miami Hurricane baseball team, as the ‘Canes begin a conference home stand against the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech.
The Hurricanes, who in the past month have faced national powers North Carolina, Virginia and Clemson, will face Head Coach Jim Morris’s former team this weekend in a three game set at Mark Light Stadium.
The ‘Canes have struggled throughout this season, but they are beginning to round into the form that had experts predicting a national title game appearance before the season started. Led by slugging sophomores Dennis Raben and Yonder Alonso, the Hurricane offense has come on strong as of late, particularly evident in a series-ending win against Virginia and the series win against Clemson.
“Miami hadn’t beaten Clemson since 2001,” Raben said. “Getting two out of three from them was big, especially on the road, so we got confidence there. We had lost something like seven straight to them. We’ve had confidence; we just hadn’t been swinging the bats.”
The team is starting to improve in several areas, most visibly the pitching staff. Freshman ace Eric Erickson has been dominant, and while Scott Maine hasn’t gotten many recent wins, he has certainly pitched well enough to justify the pre-season hype surrounding his fourth season. Add in Enrique Garcia, a surprise addition to the rotation that has been very solid, and Morris believes the starting rotation has gone from a weakness to a strength.
There are, however, still some areas that need to come around in order for this hot streak to be anything more than an aberration as part of a long season.
“We’re still making a lot of mistakes as a young team,” Morris said. “Were not very fundamentally sound and we are still making mental mistakes that young players make. We need to get better on that and hit more consistently.”
However, the team has shown the flashes of overall brilliance that could carry them deep into the postseason. Add the fact that this weekend was played without injured sophomore All-American candidate Jemile Weeks, the team’s leadoff hitter and second baseman, and the future gets even rosier for this team. Weeks’ return in the coming weeks will only add further fire to an already dangerous lineup.
This Miami team is traveling along a road that will soon diverge. They will either pull together and produce as a team in every aspect of the game, or they will shine in certain areas while struggling in others, never really putting it all together. It is becoming that time of year where Morris’ teams usually show their true stripes.
“Georgia Tech is a great offensive team, they can swing the bat,” Raben said. “Our pitchers have to throw strikes, we need to play good defense and we need to swing the bats like we did this weekend. We feel like when we play our game we can beat anybody, and we showed that against Clemson.”
Dan Stein may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.