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Opponent Preview: Miami

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Meet the Hurricanes... A talented team currently on a bit of a slide

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Miami vs UC Santa Barbara Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Miami

Mascot: Hurricanes | School Location: Coral Gables, FL | Conference: ACC

2019 Record: 15-6 (3-3, T-1st Coastal) | 2018 RPI Rank: 41

2018 Record: 28-26 (16-13, 3rd Coastal) | 2018 RPI Rank: 65

2017 Record: 30-27 (16-13, 3rd Coastal) | 2017 RPI Rank: 43


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Mr. Jennifer Lopez Park at Mark Light Field (Coral Gables, FL)

Game Time(s): Friday, Mar 22 @ 7:00pm; Saturday, Mar 23 @ 7:00pm; Sunday, Mar 24 @ 1:00pm

TV: ACC Network Extra (ACCNE): Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh, GoPack All-Access

Live Stats: Sidearm Stats


Tell me about this team

First, let’s take a look at what was said about Miami from our 2019 Season Preview:

It’s really weird to think that Miami has missed the NCAA Tournament the last two years. It’s a pretty sad way for Jim Morris to have ended his long-time run as the head coach for the Hurricanes. But enough feeling bad for a guy who won a pair of national titles and got to Omaha so many times it would have been justified for him to buy a house there.

The Hurricanes took their lumps at times last year, but chose to build for the future with the #4 ranked 2017 recruiting class comprising the majority of their lineup (Miami had more starts by freshman than any other team in the country last year). SO SS Freddy Zamora (.303/.388/.412, 12 2B, 24:18 BB:K, 20 SB), SO C Isaac Quinones (.291/.380/.370, 10 2B), SO OF Dylan Cloonan (.289/.415/.402, 9 2B), SO 2B Willy Escala (.280/.373/.346, 6 2B, 7 SB), SO 1B Raymond Gil (.234/.317/.367, 6 2B), and SO OF Tony Jenkins (.218/.368/.327) all return. The growing pains they experienced last year should translate to more success this year. Joining that group will be another group of talented freshman, led by C/1B Adrian Del Castillo (a 36th round 2018 MLB Draft selection - White Sox), INF Anthony Villar (a 37th round 2018 MLB Draft selection - Cubs), and UTIL J.P. Gates. JR OF Chad Crosbie, a JUCO transfer who started his career at UC San Diego, could also see significant playing time.

On the mound, JR RHP Evan McKendry (7-6, 3.52 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .239 OBA) is the lone weekend rotation returner and he’ll be the Friday starter for the ‘Canes. Joining McKendry in the weekend rotation will be SO RHP Chris McMahon (1-1, 4.44 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .248 OBA) and JUCO transfer RS-JR RHP Brian Van Belle. SO RHP Daniel Federman (2-4, 2.25 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .203 OBA), JR RHP Gregory Veliz (0-1, 3.12 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .188 OBA), and SO LHP Jeremy Cook (0-0, 4.58 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, .280 OBA) will lead the bullpen that will need to develop a few more arms this year to provide more depth than they had a year ago (that sounds familiar). A pair of freshman arms who were both Top 100 national recruits in the 2018 class should make immediate impacts via the bullpen and/or midweek starts; RHP Slade Cecconi (38th round MLB Draft pick - Orioles) and LHP J.P. Gates. Fellow FR LHP Bailey Mantilla should also see some innings out of the bullpen. Miami also has a pair of impact arms from the JUCO route in JR RHPs Tyler Keysor and Mark Mixon.

The team is young again - there isn’t a single senior on this entire roster - but there’s far more upside this season.

2019 Projected Record: 35-21 (15-15)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes

After a 2016 season that saw Miami go 48-14, finish 3rd in RPI, and make an appearance in the College World Series, the last two seasons were a major disappointment. The 2017 and 2018 seasons marked the only two seasons for the Miami program where the team finished outside of the top 25 in RPI since the turn of the century (in six of those seasons they finished top 3 in RPI), while also the only seasons the team did not make the NCAA Tournament. To say the end of the Jim Morris era in Miami was a downer is an understatement.

As referenced to in the preseason preview, Morris and current coach Gino DiMare, a Morris assistant for 19 years, recruited their tails off over the last two cycles to restock the talent pool with the Hurricanes, bringing in the #4 recruiting class for 2017 and the #20 class for 2018. The Hurricanes top six hitters are all freshman or sophomores, while two of their four starting pitchers are underclassmen and one of the other top arms is a JUCO transfer who came in with the 2018 class.

The season started off well enough with Miami getting out of the gates at 15-3, but they’ve lost their last three in a row; the last two games of their series at UNC-CH (not good, but understandable) and then a midweek home contest with a 3-10 Columbia squad (uhh... yeaaah). Between the UNC-CH series and their series with Florida earlier, Miami is just 2-4 against RPI top 50 teams.

This Miami squad has put up very similar numbers to NC State this year. NC State is slashing .294/.406/.488 while Miami is slashing .292/.389/.471. NC State’s staff has a 3.06 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and .238 OBA. Miami’s staff has a 3.44 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and .243 OBA.

The Hurricanes use a pretty limited bullpen, with only four relievers having pitched over 7.0 innings (NC State has ten pitchers having eclipsed that mark). They’ve also only used two LHPs (both relievers), but only for a combined 13.0 IP (out of 186.0 IP as a team).

Defense hasn’t been a strength of this team, as you’d expect from a team that starts almost exclusively freshman and sophomores throughout the lineup. There’s talent (if you haven’t heard), but they are prone to mistakes.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: RHP Evan McKendry (JR)

Saturday: RHP Chris McMahon (SO)

Sunday: RHP Brian Van Belle (RS-JR)


Key Players:

Offense

SS Freddy Zamora (SO) - .367 BA, .452 OBP, .671 SLG, 79 AB, 9 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 22 R, 21 RBI, 11 BB, 10 K, 4-5 SB. For the second straight weekend, NC State will face a young, talented SS with a bright future. Zamora doesn’t have the wheels that FSU’s De Sedas has, but he’s a much more polished hitter. He was a Freshman All-American last year and should be an All-ACC selection this year.

3B Raymond Gil (SO) - .356 BA, .413 OBP, .630 SLG, 73 AB, 5 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 11 R, 12 RBI, 5 BB, 21 K, 1-1 SB. Gil is another talented sophomore. He struggled a year ago as a freshman, but has found his groove thus far this year. He’s still racking up a lot of strikeouts, and he still doesn’t walk hardly at all, but the contact he’s making is much harder and resulting in more hits.

CF Jordan Lala (FR) - .344 BA, .517 OBP, .422 SLG, 64 AB, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 24 R, 5 RBI, 20 BB, 12 K, 11-12 SB. Aside from having a name that sounds like a character from an Elmo episode, the left-handed hitter is off to a fantastic start to his collegiate career. He was actually a fairly low-regarded recruit coming out of high school, but he’s making a name for himself now. A 20:12 BB:K ratio and 11 SB in your first 20 college games is downright impressive.

DH/C Adrian Del Castillo (FR) - .329 BA, .389 OBP, .494 SLG, 85 AB, 8 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 18 R, 23 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K, 0-0 SB. Unlike Lala, Del Castillo came to Miami flying under no radars. A top-150 recruit nationally and the 3rd ranked Miami recruit to make it to campus, he was known to swing a bat that would force its way in the lineup early. The left-handed hitter may very well muscle away the starting catching job before the season ends.

2B Anthony Vilar (FR) - .289 BA, .411 OBP, .408 SLG, 76 AB, 6 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 14 R, 12 RBI, 16 BB, 19 K, 0-0 SB. Another left-handed hitting freshman bat who’s adjusted to the college game quickly. Vilar was a 37th round MLB Draft selection (Cubs) out of high school last year. He’s not the most athletic, but he’s a strong kid who has some pop in his bat, even if it hasn’t shown much yet.

1B Alex Toral (SO) - .260 BA, .376 OBP, .662 SLG, 77 AB, 1 2B, 0 3B, 10 HR, 18 R, 26 RBI, 14 BB, 24 K, 0-0 SB. Speaking of power that has shown already, Toral is that guy. The 6’1, 220 lbs lefty was the 20th overall high school player in the 2017 class. He struggled as a true freshman (.161/.322/.237), but has cut down on the strikeouts this year while making much more consistent contact and sending a lot of baseballs out of the park.

Pitching

RHP Evan McKendry (JR) - 4-0, 3.23 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .217 OBA, 25.6 K%, 6.2 BB%, 30.2 IP, 26 H, 15 R, 11 ER, 8 BB, 33 K. In his third year as a starter, McKendry is the ace of the weekend rotation. He was a 3rd Team All-ACC selection last year after going 7-6 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .239 OBA, and 114 K in 87.0 IP. McKendry mixes a low-90’s FB with a curveball that can be devastating at times.

RHP Chris McMahon (SO) - 1-1, 4.00 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .228 OBA, 24.6 K%, 10.7 BB%, 27.0 IP, 21 H, 13 R, 12 ER, 13 BB, 30 K. McMahon was a 33rd round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft after being the 52nd ranked high school player in his class. He was a midweek starter a year ago, but has taken off in a weekend role this year. Had some uncharacteristic control issues last weekend (5 BB, 1 HBP in 4.0 IP) and therefore got touched up for 6 R (all earned). Otherwise he’s been solid.

RHP Brian Van Belle (RS-JR) - 3-2, 3.38 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .262 OBA, 21.7 K%, 5.2 BB%, 26.2 IP, 27 H, 13 R, 10 ER, 6 BB, 25 K. Van Belle is a late-bloomer after missing his first two seasons at JUCO with injury. He’s talented and shining now. An unexpected weekend starter coming into this season, he’s held down the spot, although he’s coming off his worst start as a Hurricane last weekend at UNC-CH (3.0 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 5 K).

RHP Greg Veliz (JR) - 1-0, 1 SV, 2.21 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .197 OBA, 44.4 K%, 15.3 BB%, 20.1 IP, 15 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 11 BB, 32 K. Veliz is a prototypical high risk/high reward pitcher... but, you know, like a professional-level one. He walks a lot of guys, but also strikes out a ton of them, too. Walks haven’t been as steady of an issue this year, though. Veliz has elite level stuff including a FB that can reach the upper 90’s.

RHP Daniel Federman (SO) - 0-1, 5 SV, 4.05 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, .315 OBA, 23.8 K%, 7.9 BB%, 13.1 IP, 17 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 15 K. Coming off a Freshman All-American season a year ago, Federman has stepped into the role of the team’s closer. He hasn’t been quite as effective as a year ago, but some of that has to do with bad BABIP (.410) luck. The staff has faith in him, though, and will usually give him the opportunity to work out of jams he puts himself in.

RHP Slad Cecconi (FR) - 3-1, 0 SV, 2.45 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, .239 OBA, 20.9 K%, 7.0 BB%, 29.1 IP, 27 H, 10 R, 8 ER, 9 BB, 27 K. Cecconi is Miami’s midweek starter and has only made one relief appearance on the season. He threw 86 pitches on Wednesday in the loss to Columbia, so it’s doubtful that he pitches this weekend, but theoretically could be available Sunday. The 6’4, 212 lbs freshman with an electric upper-90’s FB was an All-Everything guy coming out of high school as the 38th ranked player in the nation and should be a weekend starter next year.


Quick! Fun Facts!

Miami has just four players on its roster that didn’t go to high school in the state of Florida (one each from Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California).

NC State has two players who will be heading back to their home state in this series: SO 2B/3B David Vazquez (Hialeah, FL) and FR C/DH Luca Tresh (Safety Harbor, FL).

The Hurricanes lead the all-time series between the two schools by a 35-16 advantage.


Prediction

The Wolfpack will be throwing out JR RHP Jason Parker on Friday and SO RHP Reid Johnston on Saturday, with the always tricky TBD set to take the mound on Sunday. This will be the first true road starts for both Parker and Johnston, so it will be interesting to see if that affects either of them in any way.

This will be the second straight ACC series of two evenly-matched programs. Miami probably has the advantage in raw talent, but NC State holds the advantage in developed talent. Either way, there are going to be a lot of future MLB Draft picks playing this weekend.

With the much deeper bullpen, NC State holds the advantage here and should take the series. If the Wolfpack can get to Miami’s starting pitchers the way that UNC-CH’s hitter did last weekend, then a sweep could be in order; however, predicting a sweep in any ACC series is a dicey proposition.

Outcome: NC State wins the series 2-1