Underrated Virginia arrives in Coral Gables

The Miami Hurricanes (26-13, 11-7) return home after an impressive series victory at Florida State last weekend. The task this week may be even tougher, however, as Virginia (32-9, 11-7) gets set to open a three-game series at Mark Light Field.

Both teams are tied for second place in the Coastal Division in the Atlantic Coast Conference, making this series more critical.

The No. 17 Cavaliers have been regarded as one of the most underrated teams in the ACC. Statistically, they have the best pitching staff and second best lineup in the entire league.

The pitching has been excellent with a 2.45 ERA, and all of the starters have an ERA under three. Pre-season All-American Sean Doolittle will lead things off on Friday night, coming in with a record of 6-1 and an ERA of 2.15. Surprisingly, his only loss was against Duke. When not pitching, Doolittle is the starting first baseman for the Cavaliers.

On Saturday evening, freshman right-hander Jacob Thompson will be on the hill, with a 2.57 ERA and 7-1 record. Lefty Mike Ballard is scheduled to wrap things up on Sunday afternoon looking for his seventh win of the season. Ballard sports a 2.30 ERA and two complete games.

Miami Head Coach Jim Morris warned not to take this team lightly at all.

“I told my team that if I saw Florida State and Virginia playing a series on a neutral field, that I would take Virginia,” Morris said. “They’ve got a very good club and a well-coached team.”

The Cavaliers’ lineup is solid with the exception of catcher Beau Seabury, who is hitting just .175 on the season. Everyone else is above .300, with right fielder Brandon Marsh leading at .422.

Although the team sports a .331 average, there hasn’t been much power at all, with 12 homeruns hit in the team’s 41 games compared to 34 by the Hurricanes. Freshman second baseman David Adams leads the team with five long balls.

The Hurricanes are finally ranked in all of the polls once again. Baseball America made them No. 24 this week, and Miami is as high as No. 11 in Collegiate Baseball.

Blake Tekotte will look to build on an impressive game Sunday when he belted his third and fourth homeruns of the season. Freshman Yonder Alonso comes off one of his toughest series of the year and has seen his average drop to .309, but he still leads the team with 47 RBI.

Starting pitchers Carlos Gutierrez and Scott Maine each picked up wins last weekend. It will be the normal pitching rotation once again, with Gutierrez Friday night, Manny Miguelez on Saturday and Maine on Sunday.

“Last Friday we got some big hits and good pitching from Carlos [Gutierrez], and Chris Perez saved it,” Morris said. “We did it in front of the biggest crowd in their history, which was kind of nice as they threw everything at us including the marching band.”

All three games against the Cavaliers can be heard on WVUM 90.5 FM.

Douglas C. Kroll can be contacted at d.kroll@umiami.edu.