Baseball: Rutgers series preview

Posted Feb 13, 2013

After an offseason that we can all agree was far too long, the Miami Hurricanes will take the field for their season opener against Rutgers on Friday night.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because this is exactly how Miami started their season last year. Certainly they are hoping that it goes as well as it did the last time around. All Miami did was sweep the Scarlet Knights by scores of 6-2, 4-1 and 9-7.

If the Canes are going to repeat that result, they are going to have to get some solid starts from some relatively unproven pitchers. Because of injury concerns with returning veteran starters Eric Whaley and Bryan Radziewski, head coach Jim Morris is going to use a rotation of Chris Diaz, Javi Salas and Andrew Suarez.

Last season, Diaz had a 4.18 ERA in 23 appearances, but only two of them were starts. Javi Salas will have a bit more experience coming into his start. He started five games last season and had a 3.21 ERA across 18 total appearances. Suarez will come into his start with by far the least experience of the three. He only had three appearances last season and had an ERA approaching 20 in those appearances.

Offensively, expect to see a mix of returning contributors and new faces. Veterans Dale Carey, Chantz Mack, and Brad Fieger will be back in the middle of the order, but I think you can also count on players like freshman Grant Heyman, David Thompson and JUCO transfer Alexander Hernandez being big parts of this offense. The Scarlet Knights will be looking to get off to a quick start in what they hope will be a breakthrough season after a 31-25 finish last season.

Their rotation for the weekend will consist of Rob Smorol, Tyler Gebler and Charlie Law. For what it’s worth, this group brings much more experience to the table than does the Miami rotation. Smorol went 8-4 with a 3.46 ERA in 15 starts in 2012. Gebler went 3-5 with a 4.54 ERA in 12 starts. Law is the least accomplished of the three, but he has a high ceiling. When he was coming out of high school in 2008, Law was drafted in the 44th round, so he has tools. The leader of the Rutgers offense is set to be second baseman Nick Favatella. Last season, Favatella hit .333 with five home runs and 42 RBI. Senior catcher Jeff Melillo, a preseason All-Big East selection, will also be expected to produce. In 2012, he hit .311 with four home runs and 30 RBI.

The Hurricanes would love to get a sweep in this opening series like they did last year, but I’m not sure that can be expected. Rutgers has two experienced starters going on Friday and Saturday. Combine that with Miami’s relatively untested rotation and I think the Scarlet Knights manage to sneak out a game and avoid being swept.

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