The baseball team may have had its winning streak snapped this past week, but that doesn’t darken the team’s postseason outlook.
The Hurricanes(25-6) travel to Charlottesville to take on the University of Virginia in a three game series this weekend. The three contests against the Cavaliers marks the first road action for the ‘Canes since March 7-9, when the squad was at Tennessee.
Miami’s schedule also differs from past weeks by virtue of the absence of a mid-week game. But the ‘Canes feel that not having a game to prepare for the weekend isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Not having a game in the middle of the week helps in that all of our pitchers got to throw on Tuesday so our bullpen got work,” head coach Jim Morris said. “When you play a mid-week game the bullpen might not get work.”
Miami will certainly need to be at full strength against a Cavaliers team that is undefeated at home and happens to be playing its first night game Davenport Field. However, the ‘Canes are confident given their past success in Tennessee and Gainesville.
“We actually have played well on the road,” Morris said. “Going into Virginia, though, is going to be very tough. They’re 16-0 at home and with the new ballpark it should be an exciting time for them.”
The Cavaliers are led by junior pitcher Jeff Kamrath, who was named Pitcher of the Week in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and freshman starter Mike Ballard. Virginia recently handed No. 20 Clemson its first loss of the season, proving that they are familiar with upsetting ranked opponents.
A nice surprise for the Hurricanes has been the starting pitching of J.D. Cockroft, who had his longest outing of the season on Friday, picking up a win in 7.2 innings of work against Oral Roberts.
Rotating as the ‘Canes set-up man and closer before ace Dan Touchet suffered a season-ending injury, Cockroft hasn’t experienced any problems adjusting to the demands of a starting pitcher.
“My first start lasted about five innings,” Cockroft said. “It hasn’t been a really hard switch for me. I started during the summer and it’s where I feel most comfortable.”
Known by his teammates to be a tireless worker, Cockroft has to work even harder to keep his arm fresh for Friday night starts.
“My arm is holding up pretty well,” Cockroft said. “I’ve been doing more rehab work between starts and more running so I feel pretty good for this weekend.”
Despite the success of Cockroft, the pitching of the Hurricanes has been a bit problematic as of late. Vince Bongiovanni had his shortest outing of the season on Saturday, going just one inning, and No. 3 Brandon Camardese struggled in each of his last two outings.
Morris still has complete faith in his pitchers, but knows that there is always some uncertainty when it comes to starting pitching.
“I always worry about pitching in every game,” Morris said. “That’s just part of my mentality, but I am definitely concerned about Vince and Brandon because you need three or four starters to get to Omaha and win.”
After a week that Morris labeled as “disappointing”, the Hurricanes look to this weekend’s series as a chance to beat a good team on the road and get themselves back into the top 10 in their quest to host a regional game in May.
“We didn’t have a good week last week and I wasn’t pleased with it at all,” Morris said. “The funny thing about baseball is that it’s not always the best team that wins; it’s the team that plays the best. Hopefully we will be the best team on the field this weekend.”
Eric Kalis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.