Hurricane baseball on the bubble

For Hurricane seniors like Javy Rodriguez and Brad Safchik, this weekend marks the final time they will have a chance at defeating Florida State at Mark Light Stadium.

This weekend’s series, however, has a much bigger meaning for the team as a whole. The Hurricanes enter tonight’s contest with an 18-15 record, and with six weeks to go in the regular season, are in danger of missing the postseason for the first time in nine seasons under Coach Jim Morris.

“I hate to hear the words on the bubble, but that’s where we are right now,” Morris said. “We have to play well for the rest of the season in order to get in, and we’ve talked about that.”

Last weekend, Miami dropped two out of three to the Seminoles in the front end of a home and home series. Florida State routed Miami in the opener, 13-3, as Hurricanes starter T.J. Prunty lasted just 2.2 innings, giving up seven earned runs on five hits, while walking four and hitting a batter.

Morris, who moved Rodriguez over to second and inserted freshman Paco Figueroa at shortstop to start Friday, put Kevin Mannix back in the lineup as the designated hitter for the remainder of the series, replacing Matt Barket.

Mannix went 1-3 Saturday, but Miami was able to get help from pitcher Dan Touchet, who pitched a Hurricane season high 7.2 innings, allowing six hits, two earned runs, and striking out six en route to a 5-2 victory. At one point, Touchet pitched to 20 consecutive Florida State batters without giving up a hit.

“The difference maker in the series was us getting a great performance from Touchet, which gave our guys more confidence,” Morris said. “He kept us in the game and we did what we had to in order to win.”

Miami dropped the finale 9-7 in thirteen innings, as Stephen Drew hit a walk-off three-run homer off Vince Bongiovanni. The Hurricanes ultimately dropped the game, but did get a decent performance from starter Kiki Bengochea, who threw six innings, giving up four earned runs. Safchik also hit his first career home run, a grand slam, which gave Miami a 4-2 lead early on. Safchik was one of many Hurricanes to hit the ball well over the three-game stretch, but the senior gave the credit to the Miami pitching staff for helping them rebound from Friday’s loss.

“The pitchers stepped it up a notch,” Safchik said. “Their(FSU) hitters get on top of the plate so we starting adjusting to that, and the pitchers threw a lot more strikes and stopped walking people and that is what kept us in the game.”

Tonight, Prunty gets the start for the Hurricanes. After a 4-0 start, the sophomore right-hander has dropped each of his last two decisions, and with Troy Roberson still out due to injury, Prunty looks to solidify his spot as the temporary No.1. The rotation remains the same this weekend, as Touchet will pitch tomorrow, and Bengochea is scheduled to finish off the series. Morris will also go with the same lineup as last Sunday, keeping Rodriguez at second, and Figueroa at short.

“We’re trying to get the best defensive team out there on the field,” Morris said. “Right now, Paco has been playing very well at short and Javy does a great job turning two.”

Paco’s brother, Danny, solidified his spot in center field after a 4-4, two RBI performance in Saturday’s victory. The freshman outfielder is confident about facing the Seminoles for the second time in two weeks.

“When we play together as a team, we’re a hard team to beat. We’re focused on this weekend, and we’ve been practicing on the little things because doing the little things are what will win us ball games.”

According to Morris, the team hasn’t talked about specific goals for this weekend. However, the players understand the significance of the series, and the impact it may have on Miami’s postseason chances.

“This is the biggest weekend of the year for us,” Safchik said. “We know that we have to start winning two out of three games every series in order to make regionals.”