The Hurricanes (23-10, 8-4) and North Carolina (24-6, 7-5) have met the last two seasons, and each time the road team has won two out of three.
Miami will play a team ranked as high as No. 2 in some polls, and this season it will be at Mark Light Field.
UM is coming off a disappointing weekend in which it got swept at home, the second time this year that has happened. Clemson’s sweep marks the first time Miami has been swept in two three-game series at home in one season.
The solid starting pitching the Hurricanes relied on throughout the season let them down last weekend. The Tigers outscored the Hurricanes 28-9, including 14-1 on Sunday afternoon, when Clemson scored eight runs in the top of the first inning.
The task gets no easier this week, as perhaps the best player in college baseball will take the hill on Friday night. Junior lefty Andrew Miller was named Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Week for the second straight time after shutting out two top-five opponents in his last two starts. Miller is 6-0 with a 1.34 ERA and has struck out 61 batters in just 47 innings pitched.
Miami faced Miller each of the last two years and had mixed results. In last year’s opening game of the series, Miller lasted just 2.1 innings, giving up seven earned runs and walking eight batters. In his freshman season, Miller pitched eight strong innings while winning 2-0.
Head Coach Jim Morris said he knows what to expect from Miller.
“Andrew Miller is a guy that if he’s on, he’s very tough,” Morris said. “He needs to locate, get his breaking ball over because last year he didn’t and he had to come after us.”
Robert Woodard and Daniel Bard are set to take to the hill on Saturday and Sunday’s games. Woodard has a 3-1 record with a 3.23 ERA, while Bard is 3-2 with a 4.43 ERA.
UNC’s bats have also been pretty hot, and it’s evident by looking at the middle of their lineup. Outfielder Jay Cox is hitting .443 with eight round-trippers and 28 RBI. He has walked 20 times, bringing his on base percentage to .539.
UNC took two out of three last weekend from No. 1 Florida State at home.
The Hurricanes will look to get some clutch hits, which they lacked in last weekend’s series. Third baseman Danny Valencia leads the team with a .358 average, followed by catcher Eddy Rodriguez, who also has six homeruns.
Sophomore Carlos Gutierrez will take the mound on Friday night; he’s 7-2 with a 2.56 ERA after suffering a loss last Friday night. Fellow sophomore Manny Miguelez is scheduled for Saturday and Scott Maine for the finale on Sunday afternoon.
Coming into the series, Morris said that it’s imperative to keep everyone’s morale up.
“They have to understand first of all that they need to play better, especially against good competition like Clemson,” Morris said. “The key is that we’re still top in our division in the ACC. They just need to practice hard and get through it .”
Friday and Saturday night’s games are set for 7 p.m. while Sunday’s finale is scheduled for 1 p.m. All three games can be heard on WVUM 90.5 FM.
Douglas C. Kroll can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.