‘Canes look to avoid letdown

The baseball team will look to continue an impressive season at the plate this weekend against Elon at Mark Light Field.

Elon, a small university in North Carolina, is no stranger to the baseball team. Head Coach Jim Morris played his college ball there.

The Elon Phoenix enter the series with a 6-6 record on the season. However, Elon has been a thorn in Miami’s side in the past, winning three times in the last two seasons against the ‘Canes.

“Elon is a good program,” Morris said. “They almost swept us last year and won a game two years ago as well. They have proven that they are capable of winning against us.”

After several disappointing starts, the Hurricanes decided to make a change in their starting rotation. With a healthy George Huguet and a reinstated Sean Valdes-Fauli back on the team, the Hurricanes have enough depth in their bullpen to insert Cesar Carrillo into the rotation. Carrillo will pitch the series opener Friday, with Dan Touchet hurling Saturday, and Brandon Camardese Sunday. Opening day starter J.D. Cockroft has been struggling as of late and will be in the bullpen for this weekend’s series, in an effort to get his 2003 form back.

“J.D. has been struggling a little bit so we needed to change,” Morris said. “He would rather be in the rotation, but he’ll go out there and try to win that spot back.”

The Hurricanes, who have been snake-bitten by injuries this season, are beginning to get healthy again. Along with a rested Huguet, Brian Barton is back to full-time duty and should resume his role as one of the more productive hitters in the lineup.

I knew [San Pedro] had power and he’s gotten stronger, but I didn’t expect him to be the guy to lead us in home runs – JIM MORRIS, COACH

One of the surprises early on has been the power of Erick San Pedro. San Pedro currently leads the team in home runs with four.

“San Pedro will catch the majority of the games for us. I knew he had power and he’s gotten stronger, but I didn’t expect him to be the guy to lead us in home runs,” Morris said.

One of the keys for the Hurricanes this weekend will be playing well defensively. The team has had some defensive problems early in the season, but did a much better job last weekend in picking up three straight victories, including a 17-0 shellacking of La Salle.

“We just need to work hard in practice,” third basemen Gaby Sanchez said. “We’ve done better defensively the last couple of games.”

If the Hurricanes jump out to an early lead against Elon, it could shatter their confidence. The ‘Canes have not been able to do this in the past.

“We always come in with the mentality that every team wants to beat us,” Sanchez said. “We need to get the lead early because that will force them to play our game.”

The Hurricanes were once ranked first in the Baseball America poll and were in the top three in every poll. However, three losses have dropped the team’s overall standing. They are ranked eighth in the USA Today poll, which determines who gets to host the regional series. The top eight teams will get that honor.

“The rank matters because our goal is to be in the top eight and the higher you are, the more advantages you get,” Morris said.

Darren Grossman can be contacted at d.grossman@umiami.edu.