Early Test

The baseball team will take on the University of South Florida Bulls in a three-game series beginning Friday evening at the Mark Light Stadium.

Head Coach Jim Morris leads the ‘Canes into the series as an undefeated team. Miami ranks fifth in the nation according to the Baseball America polls and second in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings behind rival Florida State.

USF also enters the match as an undefeated squad hoping to maintain its record and overtake the Hurricanes after having secured three wins in their opening tilt against Bethune-Cookman.

In 2004 the Bulls and ‘Canes met in Tampa for a pair of games, resulting in one hard-fought win for each club. USF’s right-handed pitcher, Casey Hudspeth, was able to end the Hurricanes’ 11-game winning streak and claim a 7-2 victory.

Miami responded with a vengeance in the second game with 17 runs while strong pitching held USF to three.

Historically, Miami has the edge in victories over the Bulls with a 77-29 record overall.

This season, Hudspeth returns as a sophomore and probable Friday night pitcher for USF, presenting a possible complication for the ‘Canes, who were previously unable to score a run off of the freshman pitcher.

The Hurricanes have worked out uncertainties surrounding unfilled positions that loomed before the season began and have therefore established a solid team in every aspect of the game.

Top pitcher Cesar Carrillo will start Friday’s game, boasting a fastball that has been clocked at 97 m.p.h. Sophomore Chris Perez achieved his first win against High Point, proving to be a solid relief pitcher who will strengthen the endurance of the Hurricanes.

Morris said pitching is the least of his momentary worries.

“The biggest concern this season will be depth in batting. We will be increasing practice on hitting to strengthen that area of the game,” Morris said.

The need to improve hitting has been a focus point for the ‘Canes, whose roster holds several fast runners that only need the opportunity of getting on base to score as they work toward their fifth National Championship this season.

“We have to put pressure on people and we have to run,” Morris said. “That is one of our strengths. I believe that having that strength offensively also helps the team defensively, by giving it more range.”

Outfielder Brendan Katin, second baseman Paco Figueroa and outfielder Jon Jay have made cases to be the top hitters on the team. Katin was responsible for the lead in the first game against High Point after driving in both Walter Diaz and Ryan Braun with a base hit. Figueroa claimed an RBI in the 11th inning of the second game that clinched the victory for the Hurricanes. Although a younger member of the team, Jay has proven his ability to hit and has the speed to score, which remains an essential component of the winning formula.

The series will begin Friday at 7 p.m. at Mark Light Field.

Stacey Arnold can be contacted at s.arnold@umiami.edu.