Looking to put it all together, Miami welcomes Georgia Tech for ACC home finale

Junior Alex Toral makes a catch at first base in Miami's win over Appalachian State on Sunday May 9 at Mark Light Field.
Junior Alex Toral makes a catch at first base in Miami's win over Appalachian State on Sunday May 9 at Mark Light Field. Photo credit: Josh Halper

Fans have seen many versions of the Miami Hurricanes in 2021. From the squad that upset the preseason No. 1 Florida Gators on opening weekend, to sweeps suffered at the hands of Pittsburgh and Florida State.

It induced the postseason question into an unthinkable “if” in recent weeks after series losses at North Carolina and Boston College.

Still, UM (27-15, 15-14 ACC) is projected to be on the inside of the 64-team NCAA Tournament field heading into their final home series of the season against Georgia Tech.

“Everybody is waiting for this team to get it going…If we play to our potential, we can play with anybody,” said Miami head coach Gino DiMare.

But the Canes still need to play with a sense of urgency, with no baseball promised yet beyond the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

“Obviously need to have a good run here; this is a big weekend for us. We’re in a position where we can take a real advantage this weekend…We need to really play well in all facets of the game, and it starts tomorrow,” said Gino DiMare.

Miami will keep the same starting pitching rotation used in last weekend’s sweep over Appalachian State. Right-handers Alex McFarlane (2-0, 2.60 ERA), Jake Smith (2-0, 3.41 ERA) and Jake Garland (5-2, 5.05 ERA) will throw Friday through Sunday respectively.

On McFarlane taking the coveted Friday night starter role, DiMare commented: “[McFarlane] threw very well in the fall, early in the spring. He threw good but maybe not good enough, so he just missed being a starter at the beginning of the season. He has a lot of potential.”

McFarlane and Smith each recorded longer starts of five frames or just south of that mark in the sweep over App State while Garland threw just two innings, with his appearance cut off by a lengthy weather delay.

Closer to full strength

UM has suffered from several player injuries this season. But most have undergone recoveries and have either returned to some action or are due to.

Relief pitcher Ben Wanger (1-1, 3.60 ERA) will be available for the first time since pitching March 7 against North Carolina State. While rehabbing an elbow injury, the right-handed sixth-year senior suffered from a bout of mono, pushing his return date back further. After some bullpen sessions over the past week, he is set to be a factor once again.

Utility outfielder Chad Born missed nearly a month as well for UM, and made his first appearance since his absence in Game 2 of the App State series a weekend ago. The freshman from California then started the rain-shortened series finale a day later in right field.

And two-way sophomore Mike Rosario—who had missed the entire season to date with a knee injury—pinch hit last Sunday against App State.

“He looks good swinging the bat. He’s starting to throw. We’re going to get him off flat ground here soon,” DiMare said about Rosario before last weekend’s series.

Of UM’s injuries—only JP Gates, who hasn’t pitched since February (Tommy John surgery)—will be out for the season.

Behind enemy lines

The Canes will face a stern challenge from the Jackets lineup, who are third in the conference in batting average (.284) and first in hits (420).

Kevin Prada leads both Georgia Tech in batting average (.335) and the ACC in doubles (17). Tres Gonzalez (.308), Justyn-Henry Malloy (.305) and Luke Waddell (.299) follows right behind, with Waddell boasting a league-high five sacrifice flies.

Pitching-wise, the Yellow Jackets will use lefty Brant Hurter (4-4, 3.71 ERA) 7 p.m. Friday before going with righties Andy Archer (4-4, 4.34 ERA) and Marquis Grissom Jr. (0-1, 8.76 ERA) in the last two matchups respectively, scheduled for 7 and 1 p.m.

Hurter has gone at least five innings in nine of his 11 games, all starts. Archer is averaging just over five frames per start, while Grissom is still adjusting to ACC baseball, having made his career debut last month.

All three games will be available on ACC Network Extra and 90.5 WVUM.

The Canes stay in Coral Gables after the series for their home season finale against Florida Atlantic on Tuesday. UM then travels to Louisville for its final regular season series before the ACC Tournament. The three-game set in the Bluegrass State will be a Thursday through Saturday series.