Miami travels to Raleigh for a difficult series

The string of tough baseball series never seems to end for Miami.

After dropping two of three to Virginia last weekend, the Hurricanes will face their fifth straight top-20 opponent in North Carolina State.

“The ACC this year can definitely make a case at being the best in the country,” Assistant Coach Gino DiMare said. “It seems like every week we’re playing a team that is very sound, which is good because hopefully it will help us in the long run get better.”

N.C. State is No. 13 after being swept at North Carolina. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, the Wolfpack is an impressive 22-5 at home this season.

Miami is 10-3 away from the usually friendly confines of Mark Light Field, where it is just 17-12 this year. DiMare cited the difference in the level of competition UM has played at home and on the road.

“It would be fair to say that we’ve played better on the road for whatever reason that is,” DiMare said. “But you have to take a look at the schedule we have played here at home, as we have faced some real tough teams.”

Miami will face the best hitting team in the conference, as N.C. State has a .336 team batting average. The Wolfpack are led by Ramon Corona, who grew up across the street from Alex Rodriguez and longed to play baseball at Miami. A second baseman, Corona leads the team with a .381 average with four homeruns and 45 RBI.

Senior Brian Aragon, another Miami native and Florida International transfer, leads the team with eight long balls on the year.

While the Hurricanes average 6.5 runs per contest, N.C. State plates about nine runs per game, which could strain a pitching rotation that will look different this weekend.

Ricky Orta, who had been the weekday starter earlier this season, will move into the Sunday starting spot, and Scott Maine will move from Sunday to Saturday. The odd man out is Manny Miguelez, who has not won since beating Duke a month ago.

“Manny has not won, and you have to win, that is the bottom line,” DiMare said. “He has struggled, especially fielding his position which has hurt him more than anything.”

Each club has the same ERA (4.00). Two-sport star Andrew Brackman will start on Friday. Brackman has struggled at 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA. Eric Surkamp will get the nod on Saturday, coming in with a 2-2 record and a 4.84 ERA. Eryk McConnell leads the team in winds with six and will finish the series Sunday afternoon.

All three games can be heard live on WVUM 90.5 FM. Friday’s game begins at 7 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday’s contests starting at 1 p.m.

Douglas C. Kroll can be contacted at