Get to know Arizona's College World Series opponent: The Miami Hurricanes
The Arizona baseball team is headed to the College World Series for the first time since winning the National Championship in 2012. Their first opponent? The University of Miami Hurricanes, and here's what you need to know about the boys from "The U":
There are few certainties in life, and UM reaching the postseason is one of them. Led by head coach Jim Morris, this season marks the 44th consecutive time the Hurricanes have reached the NCAA Tournament — the longest active NCAA postseason streak for any collegiate sport —and it's also the 25th time they've reached the College World Series.
This season, the Hurricanes have a 50-12 record, the highest winning percentage in the country, and finished first in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal division with a 21-7 conference record.
UM hosted both a Regional and a Super Regional, where it knocked off Boston College in a three-game series.
The Miami offense, which placed fourth in the ACC in runs scored, is centered around one man — catcher Zack Collins, who was the tenth overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.Collins shares the lead for Miami in runs batted in, but leads the Hurricanes in home runs and on base percentage.
The junior lives on the basepaths, he is patient and draws walks frequently. But despite Collins being the scariest hitter in what is one of the nation's best lineups, he isn't the hottest bat in the lineup right now. Third baseman Edgar Michelangeli is blazing hot at the plate this postseason. Michelangeli was unstoppable in the Super Regional as he accounted for seven RBI in the series-clinching victory over Boston College.
Joining Michelangeli in the infield is shortstop Brandon Lopez, Miami's batting average leader. Lopez is your prototypical contact hitter who rarely makes mistakes at the plate. Second baseman Johnny Ruiz is tied for the team lead in RBI with 57, and is a productive bat in the middle of the lineup.
Outfielder Willie Abreu has underachieved this season, but has a flair for the dramatic as evidenced by his two walk-off home runs this season, and has plenty of pop, as he hit 12 homers this year. Jacob Heyward, brother of Major League star Jason Heyward, is a defensive specialist in left field. Heyward was a hero in Omaha last season, driving in the winning run against the University of Arkansas in the College World Series. As a whole, Miami is a team that lives on the bases. Collectively having an on-base percentage of .410 during the postseason, which is the ninth-best percentage in the nation.
The UM pitching staff isn't as strong as in previous years, but still had a team-wide 3.60 earned run average, and ace Michael Mediavilla is playing his best in the postseason. Mediavilla was dominant in the Super Regional round, pitching 7.2 innings in a Miami victory. The sophomore southpaw has an 11-1 record, with a 3.11 earned run average. Right-hander Jesse LePore may not pitch in Omaha due to injury, but he is another talented flamethrower UM has in its arsenal. Left-hander Danny Garcia doesn't have overpowering stuff, but can locate his pitches quite well.
In general, the Hurricanes tend to lean on their starting pitchers because of their lack of bullpen depth. Sidewinder Cooper Hammond was lost early in the season, and pitching coach J.D. Arteaga has struggled to be a suitable replacement. Fortunately for Arteaga, Bryan Garcia is always ready. Garcia is Miami's all-time leader in saves and is a reliable closer.
Miami's pitching staff may not be able to overpower opposing offenses, but it does one thing well: force opponents to make contact. That is important because Miami's defense is stellar. The Hurricanes have the second-best fielding percentage in the country, sitting at .983.
The last time the Hurricanes faced the Wildcats in the postseason was in 2008 when Miami defeated Arizona in a Super Regional in Coral Gables, Florida.
The Wildcats will look for a different result this time in Omaha, that will begin Saturday at 5 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.
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