Who’s the Pack playing?
Mascot: The thing that routinely wrecks Miami | School Location: Coral Gables, FL | Conference: ACC
2023 Record: 8-5 (0-0, T-1st Coastal) | 2023 RPI Rank: 101
2022 Record: 40-20 (20-10, 2nd Coastal) | 2022 RPI Rank: 27
2021 Record: 33-21 (20-15, 2nd Coastal) | 2021 RPI Rank: 32
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: Alex Rodriguez Park (Coral Gables, FL)
Game Time(s): Fri, Mar 10 @ 7:00pm | Sat, Mar 11 @ 6:00pm | Sun, Mar 12 @ 1:00pm
TV: Friday (ACC Network), Saturday (ACCNX), Sunday (ACCNX)
Radio: The Varsity Network (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)
Live Stats: Stat Broadcast
Tell me about this team
Miami started the year with a rather embarrassing loss to Penn State, won the second game of the series handily, then had a come-from-behind 9th inning walk-off win in the series finale. As season opening series usually do, it indicated either really good things for the underdog team (Penn State) or really bad ones for the favorite (Miami). Each squad would go on separate five-game winning streaks after that series and it certainly pointed to the former of those two options.
The Hurricanes and Nittany Lions are a combined 2-7 since their respective winning streaks came to an end, so we’re back to the same question we were asking ourselves after that mid-February series. And for Miami, they kick off what is an absolutely brutal conference slate. Their first six ACC series are against ranked teams (vs #15 NC State, vs #10 Virginia Tech, at #4 Wake Forest, vs #22 Florida State, at #11 Virginia, at #17 North Carolina), then they get an 11-2 Georgia Tech team that has looked improved from last year before heading to #7 Louisville, a team that looks like a CWS squad right now. They finish up ACC regular season play at Pittsburgh and home against Duke, but even the Blue Devils look capable of beating anyone.
A Miami team with a lot of questions is about to find out the answer to them by being tossed in the fire.
This Hurricanes team can hit the ball and they can hit it hard. They have 29 home runs with nine different players having multiple homers on the year. It’s not an offense that is going to be overly aggressive on the bases and they’re not going to give up many outs in the name of small-ball. This is a lineup built to play and content with playing for the big inning. As with a team that wants to out-slug you, they’re prone to the strikeout with four regulars having strikeout rates over 24.0%, and that’s despite being a team that’ll take a bunch of walks.
Strikeouts are also a theme on the pitching staff with Miami ranking 3rd in the ACC in strikeouts per nine innings (12.11). Also in keeping lockstep with the Miami hitters, the Hurricanes pitchers also have a knack for giving up the long ball, having surrendered 20 in 13 games (2nd most in the ACC). The bullpen, though, has been fantastic. When opponents put the ball in play, the defense has been solid with just 11 errors on the year and no single player with more than two.
Home runs and strikeouts! That’s what Miami does!
Who’s on the mound for these guys?
Friday: RHP Karson Ligon (SO)
Saturday: RHP Gage Ziehl (SO)
Sunday: RHP Alejandro Rosario (JR)
3B Yohandy Morales (JR) - .458/.526/.833, 12.3 BB%, 24.6 K%, 2-2 SB. This was expected to be a big year for Morales as he was a projected borderline 1st round pick for this year’s draft, and he’s living up to it and then some. The only issue has been the strikeouts, but he’s absolutely crushing the ball right now. Played on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer.
RF Zach Levenson (JR) - .386/.491/.682, 16.4 BB%, 14.5 K%, 1-3 SB. Former JUCO transfer who had a very good 2022 season, but looks like a much more complete hitter this year. His draft stock will go through the roof if he keeps this up.
2B Blake Cy (FR) - .366/.435/.756, 6.5 BB%, 28.3 K%, 0-0 SB. One of the top recruits in Miami’s freshman class, he’s kinda flipped his recruiting profile on it’s head. He was billed as a quick-twitch player who was a contact-first bat that would steal a lot of bases. He’s instead hit for power and has yet to attempt a steal. Either way, it’s been a great debut for the Hurricanes’ shortstop of the future.
CF Edgardo Villegas (SO) - .326/.446/.558, 12.5 BB%, 17.9 K%, 0-0 SB. Stocky 5’8 left-handed hitter has made the transition to CF after starting in LF last year. Solid and patient hitter.
RHP Karson Ligon (SO) - 2-0, 3.20 ERA, 19.2 IP, 5.4 BB%, 16.2 K%. Returning starter having made 15 starts last year, he’s taken a big step forward this year. He’s pitching to contact more and letting his defense play behind him, which has made him much more efficient. His changeup is lethal which lets his low-to-mid 90’s fastball play up even better.
RHP Gage Ziehl (SO) - 1-2, 11.25 ERA, 12.0 IP, 9.4 BB%, 29.7 K%. Dominant freshman reliever last year turned starter this year, and so far it is not going well. The strikeout numbers are again fantastic and the walk numbers are manageable - and actually a touch better than last year - but he’s been getting absolutely hammered giving up a line drive rate of 40.0%. He entered this year as a projected 2nd round arm for the 2024 MLB Draft, so the talent is there.
RHP Alejandro Rosario (JR) - 1-1, 7.82 ERA, 12.2 IP, 12.9 BB%, 25.8 K%. Throws pure gas, as he can hit triple digits with the heater. Gets really good arm-side run on the ol’ #1, too, which makes it even harder on righties. Has missed bats more consistently this spring, but has also missed the strike zone more.
RHP Andrew Walters (JR) - 1-0, 0 SV, 0.00 ERA, 5.2 IP, 0.0 BB%, 53.8 K%. Quite possibly the best relief pitcher in college baseball. Mid-to-upper 90’s fastball that he couples with a great breaking ball. 18th round pick of the Orioles last year, but opted to return to school.
RHP Alejandro Torres (SO) - 1-0, 0 SV, 2.61 ERA, 10.1 IP, 6.7 BB%, 40.0 K%. Former FIU transfer with a big arm. Misses bats by the boatload.
RHP Carlos Lequerica (SR) - 0-0, 0 SV, 4.35 ERA, 10.1 IP, 2.3 BB%, 34.1 K%. FIU transfer who started his career at Bethune-Cookman, spending a year in JUCO ball between. He’s been a pleasant surprise, showing better control than he previously showed.
LHP Chris Scinta (FR) - 1-0, 0 SV, 3.68 ERA, 7.1 IP, 10.0 BB%, 40.0 K%. A top 500 recruit nationally who has pitched like he was vastly underrated, small sample size warning and all. Low 90’s fastball mixes with a breaking ball and change up.
Quick! Fun Facts!
Miami will not play a game outside of the state of Florida until their 3rd ACC series at Wake Forest on March 24th. That’s 21 straight games in their home state to open the year.
With the 2023 ACC Baseball Tournament set to take place in Durham, Miami will play at least nine games in the state of North Carolina this year. It’s the only state other than Florida where they’ll play more than three games this year.
NC State has won two of the last three series against the Hurricanes, with the one series loss being last year in Raleigh.
Miami has had 295 MLB Draft picks in school history, the most of any current ACC member institution.
This is a tough matchup for both teams. Looking just at records and RPI, NC State should win this series, but this early in the year both of those things don’t mean a lot. Miami is a talented squad that has played a tougher schedule. Couple that with this being NC State’s first road series of the year and the advantage points in the Hurricanes’ favor.
Outcome: Miami takes two of three.