Baseball, Sports

Canes taking shape after slow start

Junior Nathan Melendres makes contact during Sunday's game against NC State. The Hurricanes swept the series. Alex Broadwell//The Miami Hurricane

Thirteen games into the season, the panic button was not only pushed, but rather was getting beaten down by last year’s aluminum bats.

Losses to Florida Atlantic and USF. A sweep at the hands of the Florida Gators. A slumping offense disgraced by a 9-2 loss to Illinois State, leading to a 5-8 record and premature concerns that, for the first time in 38 seasons, the Hurricanes may be left out of the postseason.

Lesson learned. Never doubt head coach Jim Morris, especially not so early in the season.

With the Hurricanes’ 3-0 win over the NC State Wolfpack on Sunday afternoon, Miami has gone on a 16-3 tear over their last 19 games to improve to 21-11 on the season, including 11-3 in the competitive ACC. The win on Sunday also gave them their fourth series sweep against an ACC opponent this season, as the Canes also swept Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College.

Looking back to the preseason, there were plenty of legitimate concerns regarding just where the Hurricanes would end up this season. With the loss of All-American Yasmani Grandal, a brand new starting rotation and several new players being asked to step up, it was anyone’s guess what to expect.

Although it hasn’t all been pretty, good teams find a way to win, regardless of what is going on around them, as evidenced by Saturday night’s contest against the Wolfpack. After taking a 13-4 lead into the eighth inning, NC State went on a huge run, scoring eight runs in the top of the inning and adding another in the top of the ninth to even the score and send the game into extra innings.

At any earlier point in the season, one may have assumed that the momentum was lost and there was no way Miami would be able to mentally recover. Instead, infielder Cade Krueter and catcher David Villasuso came away with the clutch hits needed to win the game in the 10th.

Clearly, this team has matured in a hurry.

That’s not to say that all concerns should be voided. The fielding errors, though they have decreased as the year has progressed, have been a worrying point for the Canes all year. Harold Martinez, who had 21 home runs last year and was expected to be the perennial power threat this season, has been limited to just one bomb through the first half of the schedule.

There is still plenty of baseball left, and upcoming matchups against top-tier ACC threats like North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia will determine how this year’s squad will ultimately fare. But as the Canes have demonstrated so far, you can never truly count them out.

Ernesto Suarez may be contacted at esuarez@themiamihurricane.com.

April 10, 2011

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Ernesto Suarez

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