It was a cloudy and cool day in Coral Gables, Fla. on Friday afternoon during the Hurricanes’ first media availability of the year. The gray, uncolored skies were only symbolic of the way in which Miami’s season ended in June when the Arizona Wildcats beat the Hurricanes, 4-3, at Mark Light Field.
A stunning result, Miami had reached the College World Series the prior seven times it had secured a national seeding in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament. Looking for vengeance, the ‘Canes are locked in with their first game approaching.
“Everybody knows what the goal is this year and it’s getting to Omaha,” Miami outfielder Zach Levenson said. “Nobody liked the way last year ended.”
The Hurricanes seemed to run out of gas near the end of 2022 and the pitching staff will have a tough task to accomplish in trying to replace Carson Palmquist. The former Friday night starter for the Hurricanes was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 2022 MLB Draft and led Miami in wins (nine), innings (84), strikeouts (118) and games started (16).
“We need our starters to go longer in games,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “We went to our bullpen throughout the second half of the season. We did not get good enough quality starts from our starters.”
As the Hurricanes have been hit with inevitable roster changes in the offseason, older faces in the locker room are already being recognized.
Pitcher Andrew Walters and third baseman Yohandy Morales Walters both received preseason All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball in December.
Walters, Miami’s closer in 2022, was the most reliable arm from the bullpen.
Not allowing a run until his 17th appearance against Pittsburgh, Pa., Walters finished with a team-low 1.65 ERA last season.
“Starters got to extend, we’ve got to go six innings,” Walters said. “Bullpen, I think, was our best asset last year. We are going to keep that, for sure.”
Morales played a big role in Miami’s offensive success in 2022. The slugger finished with a slash line of .329/.411/.650, along with 18 home runs and 59 RBI.
“Our goal is to get to Omaha,” Morales said. “We are here putting the work in every day, Monday through Sunday.”
Among the top 16 players on MLB’s current draft prospects board, Morales is expected to have another strong season at the plate and in the locker room.
“You don’t ever see him pouting. No negativity,” DiMare said. “Not just with how he plays but how he handles himself. Yo-Yo’s got that ‘it’ factor. It helps.”
To help Morales, the Hurricanes have found some strong pieces in the transfer portal. Miami landed notable bats like Dario Gomez and Ian Farrow from Nevada and Florida Gulf Coast University, respectively. Gomez hit .350 in two seasons with the Wolfpack and Farrow set a program record for the Eagles by hitting 21 home runs and driving in 75 RBI.
The Hurricanes’ roster includes a total of nine freshmen and each will likely need time to develop. If anyone seems to be in a position to make an immediate impact, however, first-year infielder Blake Cyr may be the one.
“Blake Cyr is an exciting player to watch. He plays with a lot of energy, a lot of passion. He can swing the bat, he’s got a lot of bat speed. He can run, he’s very quick,” DiMare said. “Blake stands out to me as a hitter.”
Cyr was rated as the fifth-best shortstop and 29th-best player overall in the state of Florida by Perfect Game.
Looking to achieve a national seeding in back-to-back years, Miami will face a gauntlet of an ACC schedule that includes six other schools rated in D1 Baseball’s top 25 rankings.
“Our strength of schedule is always going to be good,” DiMare said. “That’s always a good thing. I tell our guys, you don’t have to worry about being one of those teams that you’ve got to win 45, 48 games, even 50 games.”
Miami will begin its season with a game against the Penn State Nittany Lions on Friday, Feb. 17 at 7:00 p.m.