Miami Hurricanes at Florida Gators Series Preview

An early season test. A put up or shut up series. A measuring stick series.

Whatever metaphor you want to use, this is the biggest series of the young season, so far. The No. 22 Miami Hurricanes (7-2) travel up-state to take on the No. 6 Florida Gators (8-2) this weekend.

Head Baseball Coach Gino DiMare - Courtesy Miami Hurricanes Athletics

Head Baseball Coach Gino DiMare – Courtesy Miami Hurricanes Athletics

The Hurricanes finished the first full week of the season with a weekend sweep of Dartmouth and a disappointing 6-5 loss to the Florida Atlantic Owls in Boca. The Gators swept the Cincinnati Bearcats over the weekend and had a weekday split against the University of Jacksonville.

Here are a few keys the Miami Hurricanes need to execute to win the series:

Gage Ziehl needs to pitch like a Friday starter: Gage, my dude, it’s your time now. To say Ziehl has struggled in the Friday role so far this season would be an understatement. He comes into the weekend with a 1-1 record with a whopping 11.57 ERA (9 earned runs in 7.0 innings pitched) and a .400 opponents’ batting average. That’s not what you want from your Friday guy. Ziehl needs to keep the Canes in the ballgame in order for us to have a chance on Friday night.

Timely Hitting Needs to Improve: Looking at the Canes’ record of 7-2 and considering we’ve out-scored our opponents 78-33 on the season, you may be saying to yourself this key doesn’t make any sense. While you may be right, the Miami Hurricanes have left 77 men on base this season, an average of 8.5 per game. This includes 14 vs. FAU, which easily cost us that ballgame. I am mentioning this because the Florida Gators are going to throw stud arms at the Canes this series, including their Saturday starter Hurston Waldrep, a pre-season All American and the no. 14 College Prospect in the upcoming June draft. Getting guys on and getting them in will be a huge key to the series. Because, you know, the team that scores the most runs wins the game.

Canes Baseball – Credit Miami Athletics

Dario Gomez and CJ Kayfus need to get going: Dario Gomez has been a staple at the top of the lineup for the Hurricanes since Game 1. He’s been a huge disappointment, unfortunately. He’ll come into the weekend with a .175 / .225 / .214 slash line (batting average / slugging % / on-base %). He did, however, collect two hits vs. FAU so hopefully it’s the start of a hot stretch for him. CJ Kayfus came into the season as one of the stalwarts of the lineup. But this season, it seems like he may be pressing a bit. He comes into the weekend slashing .235 / .500 / .350 on the year. A difference from last season is that he’s been in the third or fourth spot in the lineup as compared to leading off last season. It may be time for a lineup change for him.

Emphasis on the Fundamentals: When you think of the fundamentals of baseball, you think of a myriad of things. But two of the most important ones are defense and base running. And when you’re traveling to hostile territory to play one of best teams in the nation, you need to not beat yourselves. The Miami Hurricanes have committed nine error on the season, which is third-most in the ACC. More than that, the Canes need to stop running into outs on the base paths. Whether it’s getting thrown on out on delayed steal attempts or getting doubled up on a line drive to the shortstop, it needs to improve.

No matter how you slice it, every time you travel to SEC country for a weekend baseball series, it’s a big deal. Especially when it’s your biggest rival in baseball. The Canes can make an early season statement with a series win. Go out there and prove that we’re one of the best in the Nation and have the potential for a deep post season run.

About the Author: Tony Valdes

Tony Valdes was born and raised in A-Rod’s hood of Kendall, FL.  As a life-long, die-hard Canes, Dolphins and Marlins fan, his fandom has been tested on many occasions but his passion is always strong – thank God for the Heat.  Other passions include his family, his friends, music, good food and good drinking.  He is one of the Co-Hosts of the “Canes Call In” podcast.

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