Postseason baseball has arrived for the Miami Hurricanes.
It’s a brand-new season as UM (32-17, 20-15 ACC) make their next move in what they hope is a deep, late spring run.
Miami, winners twice of six straight games in the regular season, is fresh off victories in five of their past seven, including a sweep to finish the regular season at Louisville.
In a season of both highlights and lowlights, the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament offers a chance for both redemption and reward. As the ACC Coastal Division runner-up in 2021, UM takes a No. 4 overall seed into the event held at Charlotte, N.C.’s Truist Field.
“Momentum and confidence play a big part and in baseball, especially when everyone’s hot and hitting good with how our pitchers have been pitching,” Miami’s Anthony Vilar said. “They’ve been pitching really well so they’re playing with momentum and confidence and so are we, as hitters, so we are just looking to keep that going this week.”
The tournament format is simple, with an important caveat favoring teams like the Hurricanes that come into the long weekend with stellar conference records.
Six of the seven teams in both the Coastal and Atlantic divisions were invited to the tournament.
The 12 teams overall were split up into four pools of three teams each. Every team plays every other program in its pool, with one team in each pool moving on to the conference semifinals Saturday.
Miami comes in as the fourth seed, meaning that it’s the highest-seeded team in its pool and will come out ahead in the event of a tiebreaker if needed.
The Canes will face the Duke Blue Devils on Thursday at 11 a.m. While it’s UM’s first tournament contest, it will come on the third day of the tournament and one day after Duke opened its campaign up. Miami will go for its fourth win of the season over Duke, having swept the Blue Devils at Mark Light Field April 2-4.
“You get to see the other teams play first,” head coach Gino DiMare said about playing later in the tournament in a UM press release. “We know we’re playing Duke, so it will dictate some things of how we use our staff in terms of who starts. But we need to win games. You need to win games. We’re not going to go into any game and just save guys. That’s not the case at all because we need to win games. We’d like to win this tournament, but the most important game right now is Duke.”
UM then turns its attention to the Florida State Seminoles at 3 p.m. Friday. The matchup will be important to Miami, given that its rival swept them in Coral Gables March 19-21 in one-sided fashion. However, the game will surprisingly not count toward advancement to the tournament semifinals, and here’s why.
“It’s always exciting to play against them because it’s a rivalry game with FSU. We’re just trying to forget about what happened in the season and come out on Friday ready to play,” Vilar said on MiamiHurricanes.com. “Right now we are focused on Duke. Our goal is to leave the pool play 2-0 and we can only do that if we beat Duke first, so that’s where our minds are right now.”
Miami’s contest against Duke became a de facto ACC quarterfinal when the Blue Devils defeated FSU 12-1 Wednesday. If UM beats Duke, the worst-case scenario for the Canes would be for a loss to the Seminoles Friday and for all three teams in the pool to finish 1-1. The three-way tiebreaker then would go to Miami by way of UM’s seed.
And if the Hurricanes lose their first game of 2021 to Duke, then the Blue Devils would clinch a 2-0 pool record and render the UM-FSU game moot in terms of tournament advancement.
Should the Canes beat Duke and clinch a spot in the semifinals, they would face the winner of pool A between Notre Dame, Virginia and Virginia Tech at 1 p.m. Saturday. The tournament championship is slated for noon Sunday on ESPN2.