What do former football players Eric Moncur, Glenn Cook and Randy Phillips, former women’s basketball player Lameece James and current men’s basketball player Adrian Thomas all have in common? They all have been around UM for what seems to be an eternity and have made the Hecht Athletic Center their home away from home.
Throw sixth-year senior Jason Santana into the mix as well. Santana has been the Hurricanes biggest surprise this year. After battling numerous injuries throughout his tenure, he is part of the three-man veteran weekend rotation that leads the ACC in team ERA (2.58).
Santana is 3-1 this year with a 4.46 ERA. That ERA statistic is misleading as he struggled mightily to begin the year against weak non-conference opponents in Rutgers and Manhattan. He was on the verge of coming out of the weekend rotation until he made an adjustment.
“After my first two outings [pitching coach JD Arteaga] came over to me and told me I was trying to do too much,” Santana said of his early season woes. “He said go back to what you were doing in the fall and spring. My mentality is what changed.”
Santana has responded well in ACC play. In four ACC starts he is 3-0 with a minuscule 1.93 ERA. Opponents are batting a shade over .200 against him.
“He has had one earned run or less in three of his last four games in the ACC,” head coach Jim Morris said. “He has pitched extremely well.”
Despite Santana’s success he has been moved down in the weekend rotation from Saturday to Sunday, but for a good reason.
“[Eric] Erickson has been an ace for a couple of years,” Morris said of Erickson being promoted to the Saturday slot. “He started out in that situation and you expect him to be in that situation. I’m not taking anything away from Jason [Santana]. It was not a demotion or anything like that because he has been throwing extremely well but we just needed to get Erickson back up there.”
The right-hander from Coral Gables High School enrolled at UM in 2005. He was teammates with current assistant coach Roger Tomas. He even was teammates with Milwaukee Brewers All-Star and former Hurricane Ryan Braun.
After being a predominant reliever and midweek starter his next four years, Santana still battled through injuries. This year he was granted a medical hardship by the NCAA to allow him an extra year of eligibility and he is taking advantage of it.
“I hear it from the trainers and coaches,” Santana said of teammates picking on him for being the senior citizen of the squad. “[Trainer Ron LeClair] said they are going to take me out because they are afraid I’m going to break my hip.”
Morris has said Santana threw better in the fall and spring than anyone on the staff and it is carrying over to ACC play.
“[I’m] getting ahead of hitters and throwing all of my pitches for strikes,” Santana said. “That is the most important thing. I don’t worry about the health issues anymore.”
Justin Antweil may be contacted at email@example.com.