The drive for five begins now.
1982, 1985, 1999, 2001, but could 2010 be the year the Hurricane baseball team captures their fifth national championship in the program’s storied history?
“We have a great group of guys this year and we are determined,” senior second baseman Scott Lawson said. “We are not settling for anything less than going to Omaha.”
The Canes begin their quest Friday night at 7 p.m. at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field as they host Rutgers for a three-game weekend series. Last year, Miami took three out of four against the Scarlet Knights.
“Rutgers is an outstanding team and will play us tough,” 17th year head coach Jim Morris said. “They only lost one player from their team last year so we have to be ready. I am really looking forward to the season.”
Lawson cannot wait for Friday night.
“It will be nice facing a team that does not wear orange and green,” Lawson said, referring to intrasquad games. “We just have to come out ready and focused.”
This year’s squad is going to be built on pitching and speed.
“We have to run more,” Morris said. “We have to put more pressure on the defense. We have to hit and run and we have to bunt more. Even drag bunt and push bunt to get guys on base.”
The team is going to be scrappy but there are power hitters in the middle of the lineup.
Junior catcher Yasmani Grandal belted 11 home runs this past weekend at the home run derby as he competed against former Hurricane stars Yonder Alonso and Ryan Braun. Sophomore third baseman Harold Martinez participated in the Cape Cod League home run derby challenge over the summer at Fenway Park, but the biggest surprise is going to be sophomore designated hitter David Villasuso.
Last year, Villasuso was a third-string catcher and only had 29 at bats. This year, he has found himself in the starting roll and is hitting in the middle of the order. In the fall he hit eight home runs, the most among anyone.
“The thing that strikes me is the amount of time he has worked to become a better hitter,” Morris said. “He is in the best shape he has been in. He spends endless hours at the ball park. When I leave the ball park, him and [Nathan] Melendres are hitting together.”
The Hurricanes will have a legitimate chance to win every weekend series with the dynamic duo of redshirt junior Eric Erickson and junior Chris Hernandez. The left-handers will be tolling the mound every Friday and Saturday night respectively.
Sunday starter will be sixth-year senior right-hander Jason Santana. Santana has been plagued with injuries throughout his tenure. He owns a stellar 14-2 career record but has only started 13 games due to arm troubles.
The Canes know they have a well-balanced roster that is ready to compete.
“We have a bunch of players that are willing to give themselves up for the team,” Hernandez said. “Everyone wants to play together and gel together.”
Every Hurricane baseball game can be heard on 90.5 FM WVUM.
Justin Antweil may be contacted at email@example.com.