Diamond Scouting Report: Miami
Apr 27, 2012
Branden Kline and UVa hope to knock off Miami.
The Virginia baseball team got a dramatic, come-from-behind 7-5 win over VCU in Richmond on Wednesday night thanks to 3 runs in the top of the 9th inning with one out. The rally was capped by Derek Fisher's towering 2-run home run well over the right field fence. Now, the Hoos travel to Miami for another crucial ACC weekend series moved a day later by TV to Saturday through Monday.
Here is a brief scouting report on the Miami Hurricanes.
Miami Scouting Report
2012 Results to date: 27-14, 12-9 in ACC competition. Most recently, the Canes beat Florida Atlantic 3-1 on Tuesday night after being swept last weekend by FSU in Tallahassee.
2011 Results: 38-23, 19-10 in ACC competition. Miami beat UNC 7-5 in the opening game of the ACC Tournament, then lost to Virginia 6-4 and beat Wake Forest 4-2. In the Florida regional in Jacksonville in the NCAA Tournament, Miami beat Jacksonville twice, but lost to No. 1 Florida twice to end their season.
2011 Series with Virginia: After Virginia lost the opening game to Miami 6-2 in Charlottesville last year after a nine-day exam break, the Hoos came back to win the series by beating the Canes 3-2 and 5-4 on outstanding pitching performances by Tyler Wilson and Will Roberts. Closer Branden Kline got his 14th and 15th saves of last season.
Outlook: Coach Jim Morris began his 18th year at the helm of the Miami baseball program this season and looks to continue the Canes' streak of appearing in 39 consecutive NCAA postseason tournaments. During Morris' tenure, the Canes have been to Omaha an amazing 11 times, winning the National Championship in 1999 and 2001. The Hurricanes lost four starting position players, including their three leading offensive producers, but they return all of their 2011 starters at pitchers and picked up 3-year starter Eric Erickson who had Tommy John surgery and missed all of last season. In addition, they added All American catcher Peter O'Brien as a transfer from Bethune-Cookman. O'Brien turned down a third round pro draft selection spot last June to transfer for his senior year and be near his mother who has health problems. Finally, Miami also picked up some very talented freshmen from the talent-rich south Florida area.
In preseason voting, Miami was picked to be in a tie with Virginia for 3rd place in the Coastal Division of the ACC behind projected champion UNC and Georgia Tech. Currently, the Canes are in 2nd place of the Coastal Division, one game ahead of the Hoos and one game behind Division leader UNC.
Pitching: Miami has eight pitchers returning for the 2012 season, including five starters. Graduate student LHP Eric Erickson is back for his final season after missing 2011 and holds a career record of 23-6 at Miami. He has been the Friday starter for the Canes this year and is 6-4 with an ERA of 3.53 in 63 IP. The Saturday starting pitcher has been junior RHP Eric Whaley who is 3-3 with an ERA of 2.54 over 60 IP. And the Sunday starting pitcher for the Canes in 2012 has been junior LHP Steven Ewing who is 4-0 with an ERA of 2.71 in 66 IP. They will all move back a day for this TV-moved weekend series on Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday and Monday nights at 7 p.m. The primary weekend relief pitcher for Miami has been sophomore LHP A.J. Salcines (3-0, 1.37 ERA, 26 IP) and the closer has been junior E.J. Encinosa (2-3, 3.48 ERA, 20 IP) who has 8 saves.
Miami's team ERA is 3.02 and the Canes have walked only 115 batters as a staff and struck out 317. By comparison, Virginia's team ERA is 3.30, and the Hoos have walked 133 and struck out 341. The other pitching stats for both teams are very close: Complete games (UVa. 1 vs. Miami 0), HBP (29 vs. 29), ER (142 vs. 124) and WP (17 vs. 30).
Batting/Fielding: Miami lost four starting position players from last year's team including its leadoff batter and leading hitter in 2B Zeke DeVoss (.340). The team also lost CF Nathan Melendres (.326), 1B Harold Martinez (.301) and regular DH Chris Paleaz (.235). This year, Miami's leading hitter is catcher Peter O'Brien (.354) and he also leads the team with 10 HRs. But unfortunately for the Canes, he was hit on his hand in his final at-bat of the Sunday game at Virginia Tech two weeks ago and has not played in the last five games. He is not expected to play in the Virginia series. Sophomore Brad Fieger returns at 3B and is hitting .297; he leads the Canes in hits with 46. Junior Stephen Perez also has returned at SS and is batting .264. At 2B, junior Michael Broad has gotten the starts in 2012 and is hitting .279. Sophomore Scott Wiebel (.250) has been the starter at 1B. In O'Brien's absence, the catching position has rotated between sophomore Corey Janson (.125) and freshman Garrett Kennedy (.186). The regular DH has been senior Rony Rodriguez (.266).
In the outfield, junior Chantz Mack starts in LF and is batting .269. Sophomore Dale Carey (.289) starts in CF for the departed Melendres and sophomore Tyler Palmer (.252) starts in RF. The Miami defense has committed 66 errors for a fielding percentage of .960 with SS Perez leading in that category with 15 errors. By comparison, Virginia's defense has made 46 errors for a fielding percentage of .973 with SS Taylor leading the team with 12 errors. Miami has turned 41 double plays, while Virginia has turned 39. The Canes have been successful in stealing 41 bases out of 63 attempts, while the Hoos have been successful in stealing 55 times out of 79 attempts.
Prediction: Both team need a series win in this crucial weekend ACC competition because UNC is off this weekend for final exams and the Tar Heels' last three ACC series are at Duke and home against Boston College and Virginia Tech, all teams that have sub-.500 ACC records. Miami has lost its last two ACC series, first at Virginia Tech two weeks ago and then last weekend when the Canes were swept at FSU. This home series for them is a key to their entire season. They will be looking to rebound after those two away ACC series losses and the loss of their star catcher. After the Virginia series, the Canes finish with Wake Forest at home and go on the road to Georgia Tech before the ACC Tournament.
I believe all three of the games in this weekend's series will be close, low-scoring affairs with possible come-from-behind victories for either team. The Miami team batting average is .274, but the Hurricanes have scored only an average of 3 runs per game since the O'Brien injury compared to almost 6 runs a game in the 36 prior games. Virginia's team batting average is still leading the ACC at .304, but the Hoos have been throttled by good pitching before. So, as always, pitching will play a major role in the outcome and whichever team can get its offense to be productive will win these games. I think the Hoos have an excellent chance against both Miami's starting LHPs, so winning the first game on Saturday afternoon would be a big boost to the Hoos' confidence to go out and win this away ACC series.
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