Tough stretch ahead

Yasmani Grandal. Steve Stuts // The Miami Hurricane

More than half way through the 2010 baseball season it’s still hard to judge how good this Hurricanes baseball squad is. It’s clear that they are a lot better than last year’s crew that was derailed by team chemistry issues, but this team is not the team from two years ago that earned the No. 1 national seed in the postseason.

No. 13 Miami (23-9, 11-4) has to play an extremely tough schedule the rest of the way. They have formidable series against North Carolina, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia. They played the weaker teams in the ACC in the first half.

The schedule was beneficial for a team with 14 new comers and with an ace coming off reconstructive elbow surgery. The team got their feet wet against lower echelon teams and the coaching staff got to evaluate each player and players found their niche on the team.

It’s clear that Miami will extend its own record of making the NCAA Tournament 37 years in a row. They will compete for a top 16 seed meaning they would host a regional. The question lies in how good this team will be against stout competition. Miami has played two series this year against ranked teams (Florida and Virginia Tech) and lost them both.

The second half of the season is going to be a grind and the Canes will face aces on a consistent basis. Below I evaluate the great, the good and the bad.

The Great

Junior catcher Yasmani Grandal. The reigning ACC Player of the Week is clearly the team leader. He consistently shows the team YouTube highlights of the 1999 championship team to motivate the youngsters. Early in the year he was only seeing off-speed pitches. He made an adjustment and is now clicking on all cylinders. He has nine multi-hit games in his past 12 contests. He had four home runs last week and his hitting a league best .429 in ACC play. He leads the Canes in every essentially every offensive category. Grandal is clearly a legit candidate for College Baseball Player of the Year and will be a top 10 pick in the June MLB Draft.

The Good

The weekend starting rotation. Junior Chris Hernandez (3.08 ERA), redshirt junior Eric Erickson (2.81 ERA) and senior Jason Santana (4.46 ERA) have been outstanding thus far. Hernandez is more comfortable on the mound and is pitching like he did his freshman year. Erickson has been flawless since recovering from Tommy John surgery. The biggest surprise has been Santana, who has been pitching his best baseball in six years as a Cane. The starting pitching is going to have to anchor the Canes, especially against top notch competition and lethal ACC hitters.

The Bad

The bullpen. Miami has blown two games with five run leads late in ball games this year. Senior David Gutierrez started out strong in the closers role but struggled recently and eventually lost his job. Sophomore Danny Miranda is the new closer. Miranda has one career save so the experience is not there. Head coach Jim Morris has always said he would trade two starters for one closer. If UM wants to advance to the College World Series, they are going to need to solidify the bullpen woes.

The second half of the season will be a big litmus test for the Hurricanes as they continue their drive for a fifth national championship in the program’s storied history.

Justin Antweil may be contacted at

Photo slideshow by Steven Stuts // The Miami Hurricane

[kml_flashembed movie=”” height=”437″ width=”602″ fvars=”xmlfile=″ base=”.” allowfullscreen=”true” wmode=”transparent” /]