‘Canes head to Homestead

It’s one thing to face an opponent’s ace once during a three-game series. It’s another thing to face a different opponent’s ace each contest of a three-game tournament.

This weekend, the Miami Hurricanes earn the privilege of experiencing the latter when they participate in the Homestead Challenge. Tonight, the Hurricanes face Florida International and pitcher Josh Banks for the second time this season. Miami then faces Kansas State and Lipscomb University on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

UM coach Jim Morris is looking forward to the tournament, despite the fact that he knows it will not be easy.

“Going to Homestead will be a good challenge for the players,” Morris said. “It will be a good experience for them to face different players in different environments.”

On Feb. 6, the Hurricanes traveled to FIU and were soundly defeated 7-1. Banks threw five innings of three hit ball, while not giving up an earned run. Banks has continued that streak, as he has pitched 11 innings without giving up an earned run, while getting run support from players like Michael New, who comes into tonight’s game with an astronomical .700 average. However, players like designated hitter/catcher Danny Matienzo are looking for redemption.

“Last time, FIU got the best of us,” Matienzo said. “Now, our hitting has come around and our defense is doing well, and Troy has been pitching great so we feel like we have a better shot.”

In addition to Florida International, Miami faces a tough Kansas State team that has put 43 runs on the board through its first three games. The Wildcats will likely send Ross Hawley and his 2.16 ERA on the mound to face the ‘Canes. The third Miami opponent, Lipscomb University, has struggled so far in 2002, losing all six of its contests so far. However, Morris knows that all three games will provide a formidable challenge for his squad.

“It’s going to be hard since everyone is going to throw their ace against us,” Morris said. “In addition to FIU, Kansas State has a good program and David Lipscomb has an outstanding history, so all three games are going to be a challenge for our ballclub.”

The Hurricanes come into this game with a 5-4 mark, and are fresh off a three-game sweep of Minnesota last weekend. Miami scored 38 runs against the Gophers but have still gotten solid pitching out of only one starter, junior Troy Roberson, who will be on the mound tonight against the Golden Panthers. In addition, many of the Hurricane relievers have struggled, something Morris would like to see changed.

“I’m a big believer in the bullpen so we’re going to go to them a lot,” Morris said. “We’ve had some guys that have pitched well, but we need everyone to really step up and pitch well because we’re going to go to them early and often, not just this weekend, but for the rest of the season.”

However, hitting is what carried Miami last weekend, and second baseman/shortstop Javy Rodriguez is confident that the lineup will be able to produce more runs this weekend.

“We have a different gameplan now with the positions switched around,” Rodriguez said. “We have more power in the lineup now.”