Each and every year the Miami Hurricane baseball team has it’s sights set on one thing – the College World Series. Under head coach Jim Morris, the team has gone to Omaha, Neb. seven times, and each time they have depended on a different group of guys to get the job done.
This coming year’s squad will be one of the youngest teams that Miami has fielded in quite some time. With freshmen or sophomores likely to fill at least seven of nine starting positions, the team will have to rely on it’s youthful energy and enthusiasm to get them back to where they need to be after a shaky season.
“It was an up and down year for us,” Morris said. “We had a great run, but at Miami you have to go to the College World Series to be considered to have a successful season.”
After losing 13 players in 2001, the ‘Canes lose several players after this past season. Gone are: starting pitcher Kiki Bengochea (Texas Rangers), shortstop Javy Rodriguez (Anaheim Angels), first baseman Matt Dryer (San Francisco Giants), catcher Danny Matienzo, and pitcher T.J. Prunty who both signed with the Minnesota Twins.
Not confirmed but expected to sign are third baseman Kevin Howard, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, and pitcher Troy Roberson, who was drafted by the New York Mets.
“I really don’t expect Kevin to return,” Morris said. “Kevin really wanted to sign and I don’t think Troy will be coming back next season either. After three arm operations, he is finally getting healthy and wants to move on. Also I think Kevin Mannix will sign with somebody even though he was not drafted.”
Howard and Rodriguez, both taken in the fifth round, comprised two of the starting infiedler positions last season.
Morris cited some recruits that he expects to be in camp in the fall, which begins about three weeks before Thanksgiving.
Among the players being recruited: infielders Gabby Sanchez of Brito HS in Miami, and Alexi Hernandez, a shortstop from Pace HS, right handed pitchers Tom King from Westminster Academy in Ft. Lauderdale, John Allen from West Palm Beach and Marcello Albir of Christopher Columbus high school in Miami.
“Tom King is a sidearm pitcher with a lot of promise,” Morris said. “I like sidearm pitchers because of their ability to show the batters a different look that they don’t see everyday.”
California and Indiana seem to be the other hot spots on the ‘Canes’ recruiting list. More right-handed pitchers include Cesar Carrillo and Dan Sattler from Indiana.
Brian Beron and Adam Rickson will join the team as either infielders or outfielders and Tom Shannon, also from California, could fill a void for the ‘Canes in left field next year.
“There are really a lot of positions up for grabs,” Morris said. “We will see what happens in camp and go from there.”
So just what will Miami’s lineup look like this season? There isn’t a whole lot of certainty.
Eric San Pedro and Greg Dini will be battling to take Matienzo’s spot behind the plate.
First base is up for grabs and sophomores Paco Figueroa and Joey Hooft will most likely man the double play combination, at shortstop and second base, respectively.
“I believe Paco has the best shot at being our shortstop next season,” Morris said. “Third is really up for grabs at this point.”
In the outfield, Jim Burt will start in right, with Danny Figueroa settling in center field. Left field is up in the air at this point, as well.
Morris said that he would get a better impression of the pitching staff once camp comes around.
“I could give a lot of other possible names that might come to Miami, but nothing is certain,” he said. “I expect the players I mentioned to be with us next year.”
Morris will spend the rest of the summer contacting recruits and scouting other players, trying to find that special mix of players that will bring his ball club back to Omaha.