The Hurricane baseball team may have found their missing piece.
They have a veteran starting rotation that has allowed three earned runs or less in 18 of the 21 ACC starts; they have speed, they have power in the middle of the lineup and they have set-up men. And they just found their closer.
Senior David Gutierrez began the year as the squad’s closer. He was effective early on but struggled in ACC play-blowing saves to N.C. State and Wake Forest.
Two weeks ago, Morris and pitching coach JD Arteaga moved to make Gutierrez a midweek starter and promoted sophomore left-hander Danny Miranda to the closer’s role.
“Danny [Miranda] is a competitor,” Arteaga said. “You have to have a short memory. There are going to be games when you don’t execute, but you have to compete and go out there again.”
The move has been genius.
Gutierrez has made three starts since the switch and has thrown 17.2 innings and only allowed two runs. In one start he had a perfect game through seven innings but was taken out due to a pitch count.
Miranda has been flawless as well. He has converted all three of his save opportunities and only allowed two earned runs in his last 19.2 innings.
Miranda, at 6 feet and 220 pounds, is from Miami. He was drafted in the 50th round by the St. Louis Cardinals out of high school but elected to attend the University of Miami.
“It’s a big transition,” said Miranda of now being the team’s ninth inning pitcher. “All of the pressure is on me. I like pressure and I like the feeling of closing the game out.”
Prior to this year, Miranda had never closed at any level before but he has responded to the challenge.
“He’s not going to go in there and throw 95 [mph] and blow people away,” starting pitcher Eric Erickson said. “He’s a good pitcher but, more importantly, he’s a smart pitcher. He keeps people off balance.”
Miranda’s best pitch is his change-up. He works both sides of the plate and throws strikes.
The sports administration major recently sought advice from former UM standout closer Kyle Bellamy.
“[Bellamy] told me to stay strong and throw strikes,” Miranda said. “Don’t go out there and do too much. Once you do that you may start missing your spots.”
Miranda was determined to get in better shape during offseason. Over the winter he did cardio drills with fellow teammate Jason Santana every day. Miranda eventually lost 10 pounds and has more endurance than ever.
He has aspirations of getting the final out at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska.
Justin Antweil may be contacted at email@example.com.