All right, I’ve put it off long enough; now it’s high time I got around to previewing the Diamond Dogs’ opening-round College World Series opponent, the No. 1-ranked Miami Hurricanes, who are just plain flat-out scary nasty good.
Although The U claimed its first conference tournament championship this year, Miami is attending its 23rd College World Series in search of its fifth national title. The ‘Canes arrive in Omaha sporting a 52-9 ledger that includes 2-1 series wins over Florida, Florida State, and N.C. State and three-game sweeps of Clemson and Georgia Tech during the regular season, followed by consecutive wins over the Tigers, the Yellow Jackets, and the Wolfpack in the first three games of the A.C.C. tournament. Miami took care of business against Ole Miss to close out the Coral Gables Regional.
Four regular Hurricane starters are batting over .350, led by first baseman Yonder Alonso. Although his average (.367) and runs (79) are matched exactly by his fellow first-round draft pick Jemile Weeks, Alonso has drawn 74 walks, belted 23 home runs, and, as noted over at Stiles Points, driven in 71 runs. Weeks and Blake Tekotte have eleven homers apiece. The only comforting datum concerning The U’s hitting is the fact that the squad is batting a mere .258 as a team in postseason play, as compared to Georgia’s .389 team average in N.C.A.A. tourney action.
The Hurricanes’ pitching is superb. Chris Hernandez leads the team with 16 starts and he has compiled an 11-0 record with 112 strikeouts to his credit. In 41 appearances, Kyle Bellamy has picked up six wins and three saves, holding opposing batters to a .180 average and notching an infinitesimal 1.97 E.R.A. This is cause for considerable concern, given the ballooning postseason earned run averages of starters Stephen Dodson and Nathan Moreau and of relievers Joshua Fields, Justin Grimm, and Dean Weaver in regional and super-regional play.
Because the ‘Canes have questionable depth on the hill, southpaw sophomore Eric Erickson will need to give the team more innings than he managed to do in super-regional play, when he lasted only a little over three frames against Arizona, surrendering five hits and seven runs. All told, Miami has used just six pitchers in the Hurricanes’ half-dozen N.C.A.A. tournament outings. The key to getting to U.M. is to get to U.M. early.
The ‘Canes are 9-1 at neutral sites and they are a phenomenal 42-0 whenever the opposition scores five or fewer runs. They’re 10-9 even when giving up six or more runs, so it’s tough to beat Miami even when you score in bunches, but, if you don’t score in bunches, you have no chance against the Hurricanes.
If Miami out-hits you, you’re out of luck, too, as the ‘Canes are 42-0 when notching more hits than the opposition and 3-0 when the hits are divided equally. The No. 1 national seed is 45-0 when leading after eight frames and 4-1 when tied heading into the ninth canto, but the Hurricanes are just 2-7 when trailing at the end of eight innings.
Eight of The U’s nine losses have come in games in which the starting pitcher was right-handed and five of Miami’s setbacks have come in night games. Tomorrow’s outing between the Diamond Dogs and the Hurricanes is slated for a 7:00 p.m. start.