Riding a six-game win streak, Miami heads up north for weekend series at Pitt

The Hurricanes celebrate after sweeping Duke on Sunday, April 4 at Mark Light Field.
The Hurricanes celebrate after sweeping Duke on Sunday, April 4 at Mark Light Field. Photo credit: Treasure Wilson

The Hurricanes have won six consecutive games and eight of their last nine total matchups. UM now finds themselves back in the thick of an Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division pennant race as they enter the back nine of ACC play. With an opportunity to further solidify its status as a conference contender, Miami will visit Charles L. Cost Field to face the Pittsburgh Panthers, a team that has cooled off after a fast start.

While No. 18 UM (17-8, 10-7 ACC) is fresh off a home sweep over Duke and an 8-3 win against Florida International, the No. 24 Panthers have slipped since sweeping Florida State in February to start 6-1, currently carrying a 14-10 overall record and a 9-9 mark in conference. Pitt enters the weekend having dropped its last two ACC series, as well as six of its last nine individual games. Yet they feature plenty of statistical threats on the mound and at the plate.

Pitt was the only ACC team UM saw a season ago, less than a week before COVID-19 shut down the college baseball season in March 2020. The Hurricanes will be looking to continue a winning streak of four games against the Panthers dating back to 2018, having won six of their last seven in the series since 2017.

Miami will welcome back freshman pitcher Alejandro Rosario to the weekend pitching rotation after missing his last start due to a strained right oblique. Assuming no last-minute setback is suffered, the Canes will be eager for Rosario and his 4.15 earned run average to once again be a factor at 3 p.m. Friday. The March 15 ACC Pitcher of the Week threw six frames, allowed two runs and earned a win in his last appearance on March 26 at Virginia.

Victor Mederos will start Saturday afternoon at 3. The freshman earned his first career win last week against Duke, allowing no runs in his first four frames but surrendering a grand slam in the fifth inning. Mederos takes a 5.40 ERA into the three-game series.

Jordan Dubberly will look to continue the success he’s found as the starting rotation’s newest member in Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale. The redshirt sophomore and junior college transfer has a 3.97 ERA throughout his first season in orange and green. But in two starts across as many weeks, he sports an ERA of 1.86 over nine and 2/3 innings to supplement 11 strikeouts and just two walks.

Miami has averaged nine runs per game throughout its six-game winning streak. But it has taken longer in some contests for the Canes to get the bats active than in others. Will the March 31 lineup that scored 21 runs at FIU appear? Or will fans see the team that plated just three runs and hit .200 on April 2 against Duke?

A lot may be determined by Pitt’s pitching performance.

Panther ace Mitch Myers will start Friday. The junior right-hander leads the ACC in innings pitched with 45 and 2/3. His ERA (2.56), WHIP (1.14) and batting average against (.232) are all team-bests among weekend starters. It hasn’t been easy to chase Myers from games either. He threw eight innings last week against Notre Dame and pitched a one-run complete game at Virginia on March 20. He did struggle in a 6 and 1/3-inning start at Miami in 2020, allowing eight hits and five earned runs.

Matt Gilbertson is second in the ACC behind only Myers in innings pitched, with 44 and 2/3. A righty, Gilbertson has pitched eight, seven and seven innings respectively in his last three appearances. He takes a 3.43 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP into his expected Saturday start. While Notre Dame attacked Gilbertson for nine hits a week ago, the junior limited the damage to just a single run. He threw for five frames against the Canes last year at Mark Light Field, allowing eight hits and four runs, three earned.

Throwing for Game 3 of the series will be Stephen Hansen. While Myers and Gilbertson are longer starters, Hansen pitches just over three frames an outing on average. The senior righty and Iona College transfer logs an ERA of 5.59 and a 1.72 WHIP.

Pitt also boasts depth offensively, with three players batting north of .300. Nico Popa leads the Panthers hitting .333, followed by Ron Washington Jr. (.310) and Kyle Hess (.301). The trio has also hit six, three and three home runs each respectively. Hess and Popa though have 32 strikeouts each in 2021, tied for an ACC-high. The Panthers’ David Yanni meanwhile leads the team in homers with nine as well as OPS (1.076) despite a deceivingly low .244 average.

The Panthers will have to outhit a Miami side with three .300+ hitters of their own, including Adrian and Christian Del Castillo, who made history this year as the only pair of brothers to earn ACC Player of the Week honors in the same season. If that doesn’t equal enough of a challenge for Pitt, they also must get through Hurricane closer Carson Palmquist (0.87 ERA), whose nine saves lead the conference.

All three weekend matchups can be streamed on ACC Network Extra and heard on WVUM. Looking ahead, the Canes return home after the weekend to face Florida Gulf Coast on April 14 before staying in Coral Gables for a three-game series against Clemson.