This weekend, the No. 2 Hurricanes head north to South Bend, Indiana, where temperatures are expected to dip all the way to 22 degrees. They are to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Miami is riding an eight-game winning streak, which includes sweeps of ACC rivals Clemson and North Carolina. The Canes (24-4, 10-2) will look to continue their run as their sights on a return to Omaha sharpen.
Miami’s most recent win came Tuesday night against Florida Gulf Coast University. The Canes coasted to a 4-0 victory, led by the pitching staff, which only gave up three hits throughout the contest. For Miami to continue its success this weekend, the Canes’ pitchers will have to keep dominating opposing pitchers.
The Irish (16-11, 6-6) are coming off a big win as they downed No. 17 Michigan Tuesday night. The Irish recorded 14 hits on the evening against Michigan, which allows an NCAA-best 6.13 hits per nine innings. The Irish were not only hot against Michigan, but they have been for the past two weeks, as they have won eight of their last nine games after starting the season 8-10.
Notre Dame’s batting success can be attributed to Jake Shepski. He earned a spot in the starting lineup eight games ago and has since hit five home runs. The Canes will also have to watch for Zak Kutsulis, who leads the Irish with 37 hits, and slugger Cavan Biggio, who has a .505 slugging percentage and has drawn 35 walks this season.
For the Canes, the play of their pitchers will be key to combat Notre Dame’s recent success on offense. Left-handed starters Thomas Woodrey and Michael Mediavilla went at least seven innings while only giving up three runs in their starts against North Carolina last weekend. Fellow lefty Danny Garcia had a rocky start to his game, but Miami’s youthful bullpen silenced UNC’s lineup.
Miami Head Coach Jim Morris has often called upon three freshmen relievers when it’s time to take the starter out of the game. True freshmen Andrew Cabezas and Frankie Bartow have been Morris’s go-to middle relievers all year, while redshirt freshman Keven Pimentel has recently seen more playing time. If they can hold a lead until the ninth inning, Miami has star closer Bryan Garcia to finish the game. Garcia leads the ACC with nine saves this year and is tied for third in career saves at Miami.
Notre Dame also has elite pitching on its roster. Starting pitcher Michael Hearne is 3-0 and the Irish are 6-0 in games he’s started. Hearne allowed only three hits in seven innings his last time out.
Miami is accustomed to tough pitching at this point in the season, having already faced five pitchers that are among Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects. Junior catcher Zack Collins leads the ACC with a .582 on-base percentage and boasts an impressive .675 slugging percentage. Sophomore center fielder Carl Chester has been on a tear recently and is in the top 15 of the ACC with a .377 batting average.
The Canes next play Notre Dame at 6:05 p.m. on Friday in South Bend, Indiana.