Canes wrap up fairy tale season

Hurricanes baseball looks to rebound in 2012 after a disappointing end this season.

There probably could’ve been a million better ways to end the 2011 season for the University of Miami baseball team, but they’ll have to settle for the hand they were dealt.

The nationally ranked No. 16 team in the nation — now No.15 — felt it should, at the very least, be deemed a high two seed. They instead ended the season in the same bracket as the overall No. 2 team in the nation, Florida, and made their exit from the double-elimination Gainesville regional after two losses to the Gators.

The second of the two occurred in blowout fashion with a final score of 11-4 in a game where they were down by as many as 11 in the back end of a double header after squeaking by Jacksonville earlier that day merely to stay alive.

The defeat marked the third consecutive season where Miami’s season ended in Gainesville and extended their losing streak to the Gators to seven games. But even more frustrating than the streak for Hurricanes fans has been the way they’ve lost these games — committing 18 errors throughout the seven losses.

But there’s reason for optimism going forward for Jim Morris’ ball club.

The strength of the team last year was indubitably the pitching. Playing in college baseball’s toughest conference, Cane pitchers put together a team ERA of 3.31.

And while the team’s great eighth and ninth inning tandem of junior lefties out of Miami’s Killian Senior High School, Sam Robinson and Daniel Miranda, were both recently drafted — Robinson to the Texas Rangers and Miranda to the St. Louis Cardinals — all of the four starters in the rotation will remain for next season. Eric Whaley, E.J. Encinosa and Steven Ewing will all play their junior seasons in the spring of 2012 while Bryan Radziewski lunges into his sophomore campaign.

Out of the three, only Encinosa had a losing record in 2011 and all four had ERAs under 3.50.

Aside from the arms in the bullpen, the names of a few key bats were called during the draft. Center fielder Nathan Melendres, second baseman and outfielder Zeke DeVoss and corner infielder Harold Martinez all may be moving on to the next level.

Defensively, Miami committed 92 errors, which led to 47 unearned runs. In the ACC, that’s very costly. Backing up the stellar pitching will be a focal point for this team heading into next season.

Offensively, the Canes would sometimes get guys on base or in scoring position, but then fail to drive them in and convert base runners into runs.

“We have not been hitting with guys in scoring position. Bottom line,” said Jim Morris after a regular season loss. “You’ve got to do that to win games.”