Starting Pitching Advantage: Miami
The Canes altered their rotation a bit last weekend, starting Eric Erickson on the Sunday game and moving Jason Santana up to the Saturday night start in a decision made to give Erickson some extra rest. It’ll be interesting to see if they do the same. Both Erickson and Chris Hernandez are still the team’s top guns in the rotation with ERA’s of 3.00 or better and uncanny K/BB ratios, but it was on Santana’s start last weekend that Miami earned its lone victory against in-state and out-of-conference rival Florida. Boston College will most definitely start junior LHP Pat Dean and sophomore RHP Mike Dennhardt as they’ve done in their three weekend series this season. Dean has the ability to go deep into games averaging seven innings pitched per start while putting together a 3.86 ERA and a 2-0 record in his three outings. Dennhardt, on the other hand, has been a mess since pitching seven scoreless innings of 2-hit baseball in his first start of the year vs. Tulane. Since then, he’s had two outings against FAU resulting in 15 earned runs in the two games combined without recording more than six outs in either start.
Bullpen Advantage: Miami
Canes closer David Gutierrez continues his hot pitching. He’s recorded three saves and a win in his five appearances, still hasn’t given up a run, and opponents are hitting a dismal .056 against him. Not to get too carried away with his early success, but pretty soon he might have Cane fans asking “Kyle who?” when last year’s closer Kyle Bellamy gets brought up in conversations. Freshman RHP E.J. Encinosa and sophomore lefty Daniel Miranda have been reliable and have received plenty of work out of the pen. BC deeply misses last year’s closer Mike Belfiore and head coach Mik Aoki’s preseason strategy on replacing him was a closer-by-committee system involving junior RHP Kevin Moran and sophomore RHP Matt Brazis; neither has been successful thus far. He’s shuffled both around and even tried giving Moran a starting gig for a game. Moran and Brazis have posted ERA’s of 9.31 and 7.36 respectively.
Catcher Advantage: Miami
This may have been a different story last year, but Tony Sanchez is no longer behind the dish for the Eagles. What BC has done as a means to replace him is bring in a couple of freshmen that play the position in Matt Watson and Anthony Italiano and convert last year’s starting shortstop Garret Smith to catcher. Watson’s defensive standards are not yet up to par for ACC play, but his bat sure is; he’s hit a solid .355 this season in the DH slot. Meanwhile, Smith has caught for most games this season but has not provided a serviceable bat in the Eagle lineup. For UM, Yasmani Grandal is one of the better overall catchers in the game. He’s second on the team in hitting and leads the team with 12 walks. DH/C David Villasuso’s production has dropped off a bit since last week. He had a rough series against Florida, going 0-for-7 and being taken out of the lineup for the third game of the set. He still, however, leads the team in RBI. We’ll see how he responds.
Infield Advantage: BC
Miami would like some more offensive firepower from its infield heading into ACC play. Harold Martinez is the only regular of the group hitting over .300. Other guys have produced sporadically but have lacked the consistency with the bat in their hands. Scott Lawson would like to improve on his .235 batting average, but in his defense, he hasn’t had much to hit and has drawn 10 walks making his on-base percentage .447. Boston College’s infield is flooded with talent and experience at every position. Senior captain and first baseman John Spatola is second on this team in hitting and leads them in homers and slugging. Junior third baseman Mickey Wiswall leads the team in RBI and is the guy that Aoki likes to manage his lineup around. What they also like to do is play sophomore Anthony Melchionda, who has been a pleasant surprise for them offensively at first, while moving Spatola to left field. This BC infield is also better than Miami’s defensively. Only four of the 72 runs they’ve given up have been unearned (5%) while 13% of Miami’s runs allowed have been unearned.
Outfield Advantage: Even
Chris Pelaez hits baseballs just about as good as Chris Brown hits Rihanna. On the year, he’s posted an absurd .529 batting average and is slugging a phenomenal .882. He and Nathan Melendres both launched big-time home runs in Saturday’s win against UF, and Zeke DeVoss has really come along in the leadoff slot. The Eagles’ outfield is led by senior caption Robbie Anston, a durable leadoff hitter with an all-around game and an All-ACC selection under his belt. Again, you can expect BC to play Spatola in the corner outfield spots a whole lot for this series as they want to get all their big bats in the lineup against the Canes. Despite all this production out of these two seniors, it’s been a mission for them to get anything out of the other outfield spot.
Intangibles Advantage: Miami
It’s spring break baseball in Miami! The Canes will feel comfortable at home, where they’ve played 10 of their 12 games (minus the exhibition game they lost to the Marlins). In comparison, the Boston College Eagles have had to travel over 1,500 miles to arrive at Coral Gables and will be spending this entire week in south Florida as they’ve just wrapped up a two-game set against Florida International. The Hurricanes should also be looking to start off their ACC schedule the right way and are eager to win some games after losing 2 of 3 to the Gators last weekend. Let’s hope we can bust out the brooms by Sunday.
David Furones may be contacted at email@example.com.