Around this time two years ago, No. 1 Miami met No. 2 Florida State in Tallahassee for bragging rights on the baseball diamond.
Hurricane first baseman Yonder Alonso smacked two home runs in the final game of the weekend as the Hurricanes clinched the series.
With a travel curfew, the game was shortened to seven innings. Afterward, tempers flared as both teams met at home plate, but players stopped before a fight could take place.
Though Alonso has moved on to Minor League Baseball, the rivalry continues this weekend.
Redshirt junior left-hander Eric Erickson is a big reason why the Canes rank ninth in the country heading into the final weeks of the regular season.
“It was really hostile,” Erickson said about playing at FSU. “You’re on the field and everything’s crazy going on around you.”
Erickson, who missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, holds the second-lowest ERA in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 2.51.
“To be surrounded by a group of guys like this makes it that much better and I’m just happy to be on the field,” he said.
Miami’s pitching staff ranks first in the ACC with a 3.45 team ERA. In conference play, the pitchers post an even better 2.99 ERA.
Sophomore lefty Daniel Miranda stepped right into the closer role and has recorded three saves and a win.
Freshman right-hander E.J. Encinosa, who has been serving as the set-up man, has a 1.91 ERA, which is the lowest on the team.
“Everybody’s been doing their job,” Erickson said. “It’s given them plenty of opportunities to come in and feel comfortable in game situations.”
But it’s not just pitching that has the Hurricanes in the midst of a six-game winning streak.
Junior catcher Yasmani Grandal leads the ACC in two key offensive categories: he has a .429 average and a .534 on-base percentage.
Although his eight-game hit streak was snapped during Saturday’s 11-1 victory over then-No. 21 North Carolina, last week’s ACC Player of the Week has recorded 30 RBI and 12 multi-hit games over his last 16 appearances.
“I’m just trying to stay on top of the ball, get line drives, ground balls,” Grandal said.
Freshman centerfielder Zeke DeVoss capped off his best week as a Cane by going 7 for 15 with two homers, three RBI, eight runs and five stolen bases.
He, along with teammates Stephen Perez, Nathan Melendres and Frankie Ratcliff, offers the lineup a balance of speed and power with 50 stolen bases and 11 homers.
“That was really important for me to have a good week because I was struggling,” DeVoss said.
Miami (28-9, 14-4 ACC) has won seven of the last 10 meetings against sixth-ranked Florida State (29-9, 12-6 ACC), including the last two series.
Grandal hopes that the tension and crowds at Dick Howser Stadium allow the young team to mature.
“It’s a big field and it’s a nice stadium,” he said. “Last time there was a record crowd. It’s going to be a good experience and it’s only going to get bigger from there if we go to Omaha.”
Christina De Nicola may be contacted at email@example.com.
FSU players to look out for info box
Tyler Holt, Junior, OF, Preseason All-American
.375 BA, 9 HR, 55 runs, 33 RBI, 12 SB
Sherman Johnson, Sophomore, INF
.350 BA, 3 HR, 28 runs, 33 RBI
Sean Gilmartin, Sophomore, LHP/OF
(6-2), 3.09 ERA, 58.1 innings, 55 strikeouts
Mike McGee, Junior RHP/OF
(2-0), 0.59 ERA, 15.1 innings, 18 strikeouts, 7 saves