Mid-season MVP: The Starting Rotation
Coming into this season few people knew what to expect from Miami’s starting rotation. Completely overhauled from its 2010 staff, head coach Jim Morris chose true freshman Bryan Radziewski to pitch on Friday nights, with sophomores E.J. Encinosa and Eric Whaley backing him up on Saturdays and Sundays. Along with sophomore Steven Ewing on the mound during midweek contests, the starting rotation has carried the Hurricanes until this point, combining for a 13-6 overall record.
Season’s top moment: Come-from-behind victory at Wake Forest
Heading into the top of the ninth inning at Wake Forest, Miami found itself down 3-2 and in jeopardy of losing its first ACC contest of the season. Sophomore Zeke DeVoss led off the inning with a walk and was nearly picked off trying to steal second, but managed to take the base safely thanks to a hard slide that dislodged the ball from the shortstop’s glove. After sophomore Stephen Perez struck out attempting to bunt DeVoss over to third, up to bat came junior Nathan Melendres, and the rest, as they say, is history. Melendres stroked a double down the right field line and DeVoss scored easily to tie the game. Junior Harold Martinez, who had struggled mightily in the early part of the season, came to the plate next and hit a hard single into right field that scored the winning run for the Canes. Miami beat Wake Forest 4-3 that night, and went on to sweep the three game series.
Season’s worst moment: Midweek loss to Illinois State, 9-2.
The Canes have certainly had their low points this season, but this loss to Illinois State sticks out for many reasons, good and bad. Following a disastrous road trip up to Gainesville that saw the Hurricanes lose three straight games to in-state rival Florida, Miami came home to face Illinois State in a two-game midweek series. Miami won the first game in extra innings, but lost the second game of the series in a one-sided contest 9-2.
“I’m very depressed from watching the game tonight,” Morris said at the time. “We’re not playing the game very [well], offensively or defensively right now and we’ve got a long ways to go before we’ve got a chance to be a good club.”
So what good came from this loss? Miami would go on to win nine straight games, seemingly saving their season and revitalizing the team.
Series to look ahead to: April 29 – May 1, at home against Florida State
Miami has a lot of good competition left on its schedule, so this category was somewhat hard to pick. Between Virginia, North Carolina and Florida State, all nationally ranked and all in the top 10 of the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, the Hurricanes will have their hands full at the end of April and beginning of May. Still, any series against the Seminoles is big for the University of Miami. If Miami plays well against North Carolina the weekend prior to this series, the three game set against the Seminoles could prove to be huge for the Hurricanes, giving the team a tremendous opportunity to build its playoff resume heading down the stretch.
Underrated player: Freshman Dale Carey
Carey struggled at the plate to begin the year, but has come along since, improving his batting average to .250. The speedy outfielder has proved his worth defensively, filling in for a hurting Nathan Melendres early on in the season, and taking over in right field at the end of games. Carey is the type of player that can steal a base at will and has the potential to be a real spark plug for the Hurricanes if he continues to make improvements in his game.
‘Rookie of the year’: freshman Bryan Radziewski
When coach Jim Morris announced that Radziewski would be the Canes Friday night starter, it took a lot of people by surprise. Certainly Radziewski was expected to be in the starting rotation based on his solid performance in fall-ball, but Friday nights are usually slotted for a team’s ace, and Morris had never started a true freshman in the Friday night slot before. Well, B-Rad, as his teammates call him, has impressed so far this year. The hard-throwing lefty is 4-2 on the year and is tied for second on the team with 40 strikeouts.
Projection for the rest of the season:
The Hurricanes return to the NCAA Super Regionals on the back of solid play down the stretch and a good showing in the ACC tournament. Ultimately the Miami offense can’t keep up with the competition, and the Canes get sent home from the second round of the playoffs for the second straight season.
Adam Berger may be contacted at email@example.com