With two months of the season down and only one to go, the Miami Hurricanes enter yet another big conference series at Mark Light Field as the team matches up against the Pittsburgh Panthers.
Miami (29-8, 14-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) comes into the game having restarted a two game win streak after their 14-game lossless streak came to an end last weekend in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech.
On Tuesday, the Hurricanes took down Bethune-Cookman at home 9-0.
Midweek staple and sophomore starter Jake Garland earned the victory as he threw seven shutout innings, struck out as many hitters, allowing one walk and six hits.
“My slider was working really well. My fastball runs into the plate and my slider goes away,” Garland said. “Having two pitches that go in different directions really makes it hard for hitters. I worked on it in my last bullpen, getting the spin right.”
Off the win, Miami will have a tougher task against a solid Pittsburgh opponent. The Panthers (21-14, 9-8 ACC) have dropped some more games in the ACC than Miami, but also swept the Hurricanes last season and have had success against some of the best in the conference.
Last weekend, Pittsburgh took down No. 5 Virginia two times in three tries, before losing a one-run contest to West Virginia Wednesday.
The team, offensively, is led by junior catcher Tatem Levins, who has smacked a team-leading 11 home runs, helping to drive in 35 RBI. Levins also contributes a team-leading .331 batting average.
Kyle Hess, a junior outfielder, will be another bat to watch in the Panthers’ lineup. Hess has a team-best .660 slugging percentage and eight home runs, while staying under control at the plate. He has struck out 15 times but countered the number with 11 walks.
Meanwhile, Miami has been led by first baseman CJ Kayfus, who has the 36th-best batting average in the country (.390) and has notched 36 RBI while still drawing more walks (27) than strikeouts (25).
Kayfus hasn’t been alone, however, as the Canes’ offense has put up 7.7 runs per game. The sophomore stressed Tuesday that hitting feels “super contagious” once one Hurricane is able to provide hitting in the lineup.
Pittsburgh’s pitching as a team has been less of a bright spot in the ACC, coming in at 12th in team ERA (5.53). The Panthers have struggled to strike hitters out, only having 281 on the season, last in the conference. The Panthers have still been accurate, however, only allowing 136 walks, fourth in the conference.
For the first game of the series, Miami is expected to send former All-American Carson Palmquist to the mound. The left-hander from Forty Myers holds a 3.75 ERA and is looking to get off to a better start than what he faced against No. 21 Virginia Tech, allowing six earned runs on 10 hits.
Matt Gilbertson, who has a 6-2 record and comes of an eight-inning game last Friday, should start for Pittsburgh. The senior struck out eight batters over eight innings against Virginia to earn his sixth win of the season.
Freshman Karson Ligon is likely to get the call Saturday for Miami and sophomore Alejandro Rosario will pitch Sunday.
Rounding out the series for Pittsburgh, the Panthers will have Logan Evans on the hill on Saturday and will look for another strong outing from Billy Corcoran on Sunday. Corcoran last threw seven scoreless innings against Virginia in his previous start.
Miami enters the series 14-4 in the ACC, while the next best winning percentage in the ACC Coastal comes from Virginia Tech’s 9-7 conference record. That considered, winning this series could be a crucial step for Miami to eventually clinch the division as the regular season winds down.
First pitch on Friday and Saturday is scheduled for 7 p.m., while Sunday’s game will begin at 1 p.m.