It has been a tale of two seasons for Hurricanes Baseball.
In the not-so-distant past, the Canes were widely regarded as a powerhouse and opened their season with a statement series win over the No. 1 Florida Gators. Since then, it’s been a downwards trend for Miami.
Series sweeps from Florida State and Pittsburgh plummeted the Hurricanes’ place in the national rankings. With 13 games remaining in the regular season, consistency at the dish and on the mound will be crucial as the Canes look to ride a successful home stretch en route to the ACC Tournament.
Miami is coming off a 6-0 shutout and season sweep over Florida Gulf Coast University, a game in which Miami head coach Gino DiMare relied on a six-man pitching unit to guide the Hurricanes to victory. UM’s pitching staff, led by Jake Smith’s three frames of one-hit ball, only allowed three hits and three walks collectively throughout the game, and the bats did more than enough to reward them with run support.
In the Hurricanes’ series loss to North Carolina last weekend, there was a quite a flipped narrative. Prior to Sunday’s 8-1 blowout over the Tar Heels, the Canes fell 4-2 and 6-5 in a Friday double-header. Across both outings, Miami struggled to put the ball in play, striking out 23 times. Miami’s top of the lineup in Jordan Lala, Anthony Vilar, Yohandy Morales and Adrian Del Castillo accounted for 14 strikeouts.
Going into this weekend’s series versus Boston College, Miami’s bats will need to come alive as they duel an Eagles lineup that has scored five or more runs in four of their last six games. Two of these contests produced double-digit scoring efforts for Boston, and two games were won versus nationally-ranked ACC teams in No. 18 Florida State and No. 6 Notre Dame.
In their most recent win over Holy Cross on Tuesday, the Eagles routed the Crusaders 13-2.
Despite Boston’s recent offensive emergence, this weekend presents a golden opportunity for Miami to make some noise and climb up the ACC Coastal standings.
At an overall record of 17-21, the Eagles hold the second-lowest winning percentage in the very competitive ACC at .447. However, they are far worse, 6-18, when playing against conference rivals.
Fortunately for Miami, they are no stranger to success when playing the Eagles, boasting a 24-8 all-time record when playing Boston, and stacking wins in eight of their last 10 outings.
Game 1 Breakdown: Friday, April 30, 7:00 p.m.
The series opener between the Hurricanes and the Eagles will see Alejandro Rosario (4-3, 5.65 ERA) pitted against Boston right-handed pitcher Emmet Sheehan (4-3, 4.30 ERA).
Rosario last saw the mound in the series opener versus the Tar Heels and struggled in his five innings of work. The young pitcher only struck out two hitters while walking three, giving up nine hits and surrendering a run in four of his innings pitched.
Sheehan, on the other hand, is coming off arguably the best start of his junior season. All season long, Sheehan has been a workhorse on the mound for Boston, going at least six full innings in nine of his 10 starts. In his last outing versus Notre Dame, he went 6.1 shutout frames, punched out 10 hitters and allowed only three hits. However, he did allow a season-high five walks.
On the offensive end for the Hurricanes, many of Miami’s most highly-touted bats have begun to heat up just in time for the season’s home stretch. Christian Del Castillo paces the team with a .368 batting average and 32 RBI’s with brother Adrian Del Castillo leading the Canes in doubles with 11. Alex Toral also busted out offensively as of late and he is currently second on the team in long balls with six.
For Boston, center fielder Sal Frelick flies atop the Eagles’ ranks in average and runs scored while hitting at the top of the lineup. Right behind him, two-hole hitter Brian Dempsey has stroked 14 hits in his last eight games to move his batting average just ticks under the .300 mark at .291. In Tuesday’s dominant win over Holy Cross, designated hitter Cody Morissette and Parker Landwehr shined, combining for six hits and seven RBI’s. They look to continue swinging their hot bats entering the weekend.
Game 2 Breakdown: Saturday May 1, 3:00 p.m.
This weekend’s middle game will feature Alex McFarlane and Mason Pelio dueling it out on the mound.
McFarlane is on the heels of three consecutive scoreless outings for the Hurricanes, despite seeing limited innings. Dating back to April 16’s 12-3 win over Clemson, he has pitched six shutout innings and has punched out seven hitters.
Within that stretch came his best performance of the season. On April 23 versus North Carolina, McFarlane nearly matched his season-high in innings pitched with three complete frames, struck out five of his nine outs, and walked only one hitter.
Prior to his outing versus Clemson, McFarlane had surrendered runs in each of his four previous appearances, but now comes into this weekend’s series with a strong 3.50 ERA.
McFarlane’s counterpart in Pelio hasn’t been able to replicate the recent success of his opponent, and enters the weekend with a lofty 6.66 ERA.
On the season, Pelio has recorded two scoreless outings in ten appearances, and four of his outings have seen five or more earned runs attached to his final line. His typical workload – generally no less than four innings – is far greater than that of McFarlane, but Pelio has been ineffective at keeping runs off the board and baseballs in the strike zone.
Pelio has walked multiple batters in nine of his ten appearances. His season-high in walks currently lies at six, and he allowed four in his last game versus Notre Dame.
Game 3: Sunday, May 2, 12:00 p.m.
Boston College has yet to announce a probable starter for Sunday’s game, but Miami will go with Jake Garland on the mound in the series finale.
Unlike McFarlane, Garland has been an innings-eater for the Hurricanes this season, going at least five innings in six of his 10 games on the bump this season. With the exception of two appearances in which he allowed five and six runs to NC State and FAU, respectively, Garland has allowed no more than three runs in any of his other performances this season.
He opened the season as part of Miami’s bullpen as a long reliever, working over three innings in his first two games, but has since transitioned into the starting rotation. As a starter, Garland has turned in five quality starts and has allowed three runs or less in six of his seven starts.
Garland’s strongest start of the season came versus Clemson on April 18, when he pitched six stellar innings of one-run ball while punching out six Tigers and allowing three hits.
While he didn’t stockpile strikeouts in his last game versus North Carolina, only recording two, he turned in a strong start nonetheless, allowing one run over six frames in Miami’s 8-1 win.
Going into his next start, he will face the Eagles with an ERA under the 4.00 threshold at 3.94.
After a weekend in the Northeast, the Hurricanes will head back to Coral Gables to take on Appalachian State and Georgia Tech for two weekend series and FAU for their final midweek game of the season.
Miami will then close out the season in Kentucky, where they will take on the Louisville Cardinals from May 20 through May 22.