Relief pitchers vital for team’s success this season

In baseball, a starting pitcher playing all nine innings doesn’t happen too often. Because of this, solid relief pitchers are vital to a team’s success. For the Hurricanes, sophomore Jesse Lepore and juniors Bryan Garcia and Cooper Hammond are there to take care of business when the starters come out.

Garcia is a Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American second-team selection and has been named to the Preseason Stopper of the Year Award Watch List. Garcia is one of 70 players who were put on the list for the award that is given to the best relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball.

As Miami’s closer of the past two years, right-handed Garcia has been and will continue to be relied upon heavily to finish off games. He had an impressive season last year with 10 saves, a 2.50 ERA in 39.2 innings and a 6-2 record.

The talented 6-foot-1 player out of Columbus High School earned All-ACC third team honors for his performance in 2015. Garcia ranks No. 5 all-time in career saves at Miami with 25 and struck out 38 batters in 35 appearances last season.

Hammond is no slouch himself. Miami’s set-up reliever had a 2.25 ERA and a 5-1 record in 2015. The 6-foot-3, right-handed pitcher walked only nine batters all of last season while recording 30 strikeouts in 40 innings.

The bullpen took a hit when junior pitcher Derik Beauprez was dismissed from the team on Monday for a violation of team rules and standout sophomore Michael Mediavilla moved to the starting rotation, but Hammond and Garcia are good enough to make up for their absences.

“Miami’s greatest strength might be the bullpen. Bryan Garcia has plenty of experience closing games and Cooper Hammond has been very effective in a setup role,” national writer for Baseball America Teddy Cahill said in an email. “If some of the young starters step up like they’re expected to, Miami should have a good pitching staff.”

Lepore, another righty, only saw playing time in 10 games last season, but made the most of it by posting a 1.93 ERA. The 6-foot-4 player out of Beverly Hills, Florida struck out 10 batters in 14 innings in 2015. Lepore is currently battling for the mid-week starter’s job with freshman Andrew Cabezas.

Cabezas was drafted in the 34th round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians out of high school but chose to come to Miami instead. He’s one of three first-year pitchers with Isaiah Musa and Frankie Bartow also on the roster.

To close out the bullpen, the Canes also have redshirt freshmen Kevin Pimentel and Devin Meyer, redshirt junior Ryan Guerra and sophomore Daniel Epstein.

Expect to see a few of these pitchers in action during the three-game series Miami will play against Rutgers this weekend, beginning at 7 p.m. Friday at Mark Light Field.