Canes prepare for first ACC series

The reigning ACC champions prepare to face a conference foe for the first time this season, as they get ready to host North Carolina State on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.

Last year Miami was a conference-best 23-5 in ACC play. They beat the Wolfpack in the first round of the ACC tournament and the win catapulted the Canes to their first conference title since joining the ACC in 2004.

After outscoring the University of Florida 26 to 8 last weekend, the Hurricanes moved up the rankings in all five of the major college baseball polls, including being touted as high as No. 8 in the USA Today/ESPN polls.

The key to sustaining UM’s weekend success will be starting pitching. Their weekend rotation of sophomore Chris Hernandez, junior David Gutierrez and sophomore Iden Nazario have a combined record of 5-0 with 33 strikeouts and have allowed only five extra base hits.

The catalyst for the team, offensively, has been leadoff hitter Nathan Melendres. The freshman center fielder has made the transition seamless, not only from high school to college, but also from infield to outfield. This year is his first playing outfield. He is batting over .300 and has recorded at least one hit in each of his first eight games.

“I have just been working really hard,” Melendres said. “I have been working a lot with [assistant coach Ray Fuentes]. He is great. The transition has been good and I have become a lot faster since moving to outfield so that helps my game out a lot.”

The Wolfpack head to South Florida red hot, as they are riding a five-game win streak, after dropping their first two games of the season. Mother Nature has not been kind to them, though, as they had three games postponed due to inclement weather last weekend.

The Wolfpack are led by freshman catcher/infielder Pratt Maynard and junior outfielder Drew Poulk. Both are either first or second on the team in batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored and total bases.

Both teams have faced one common opponent this year: each team was upset in their home ball park by Rhode Island. Miami lost to Rhode Island on Tuesday night, 3-0, as their bats were stagnant. They accumulated just three hits the entire game. Rhode Island spoiled N.C. State’s opening night 11-8.

Saturday’s game is at 7 p.m. and Sunday’s game is at 1 p.m. All games can be heard on WVUM 90.5 FM.

March 4, 2009


Justin Antweil

Senior Sports Writer

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