Canes head down home stretch, hope for deja vu

The Hurricanes celebrate at the plate after Harold Martinez hits a 3-run shot over the wall in the Sunday game against Florida State on April 5th.  The Hurricanes won the series 2 games to 1.  STEVEN STUTS // HURRICANE STAFF

The Hurricanes celebrate at the plate after Harold Martinez hits a 3-run shot over the wall in the Sunday game against Florida State on April 5th. The Hurricanes won the series 2 games to 1. STEVEN STUTS // HURRICANE STAFF

Following a lopsided 10-1 loss to North Florida Tuesday night at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, the 13th-ranked Hurricanes (29-15, 13-11) have three weekend series remaining before the ACC tournament on May 20 in Durham, N.C.

The Canes’ hitting is either feast or famine. Heading into the ninth inning against the Ospreys, Miami had just two hits before doubling that total with two harmless singles. UM’s hitting is consistently inconsistent.

Midweek starter Jason Santana has struggled in his last two starts after cruising to a 6-0 record. He has allowed 11 earned runs in his last two starts. During his previous three starts combined, the senior right-hander had allowed just five earned runs combined.

Barring a debacle, the Hurricanes should make the ACC tournament, which will provide a good litmus test for this team. They will be forced to play as many as four games in five days and face premier pitching.

On the season, the Canes have shown they can pitch and that the bullpen can be solid. Preseason All-American closer Kyle Bellamy will be called upon numerous times in the eighth inning down the stretch. Last year he pitched in 14 of the team’s final 15 games and most of those were high-pressure situations. Bellamy’s more than proven he’s durable and can handle the workload.

Small ball is Miami’s formula for success. The boys in orange and green need to take advantage of every opportunity given to them. The Canes are second in the ACC in sacrifice bunts and third in the league in stolen bases attempted. Head coach Jim Morris is known for putting pressure on the opponent’s defense.

This team is not last year’s team. Just to put things in perspective.

Junior first baseman Jason Hagerty was not an everyday player last season, but this year he ranks high in almost every offensive category. He has started every game and is second on the team in on-base percentage (.454), batting average (.315) and home runs (8). “Hags” leads the team in total bases and ranks in the top ten in the conference in walks. His versatility is a huge plus as he can play outfield, infield and catcher.

Hagerty is the one player that has the tools and intangibles to put this team on his back. He has two walk-off home runs this season. Yonder Alonso was clutch last year and Hagerty has the opportunity to do the same.

Miami can learn a lot from the reigning College World Series champions, the Fresno State Bulldogs. They became the first four seed to win the title, and upset powerhouses like Arizona State, Rice, Georgia and North Carolina.

For those of you not familiar with the college baseball format, that is like George Mason making it to the Final Four in 2006, except even more mind-boggling.

Of course the Canes will not be a four seed and will likely host a regional. But the expectations for this team were not that high coming into the season. Still, it has won two-thirds of its weekend series and been ranked in the top 25 in all five major college baseball polls every week.

In order to be productive, however, the Hurricanes need timely hitting. Their numbers might not be worthy of prestigious postseason awards and their names might not be household, but these players have the opportunity to do something special.

At Morris’s opening press conference in February, he compared this team to the 1999 squad that won the College World Series based on the same small ball formula. The previous year, the Canes lost stars like Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff and Jason Michaels and rebounded with a historic season.

The same can be said 10 years later if Miami can win after losing names like Alonso, Jemile Weeks, Blake Tekotte and Dennis Raben.

April 29, 2009


Justin Antweil

Senior Sports Writer

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