The Coral Gables regional kicks off this weekend with Miami playing Canisius and Arizona playing Ole Miss on Friday at Alex Rodriguez Park. The Daily Wildcat's sports desk checks in with the reporters who covered each team to find out what to watch for from each team.
No. 1 seed Miami:
The Hurricanes are a young team that have rose above many of the preseason expectations. The Atlantic Coast Conference’s coaches poll, before the season started, had Miami to finish third in the Coastal Division.
Throughout the season, Miami has been led by the young bats of sophomore CJ Kayfus and third baseman Yohandy Morales, who have hit .369 and .323 respectively. Both players were named to the All-ACC second team.
Kayfus leads the team in batting average and has 50 RBI despite being a leadoff hitter, the fourth-most on the team. Morales has hit 14 home runs, the most of any player on the Canes.
Other big contributors include Jacob Burke and Zach Levenson. Burke is a transfer from Southeastern Louisiana University and led the team with 56 RBI in his first year with Miami. A freshman, Levenson has seen more and more playing time as the season has progressed and has moved further up in the order from the seventh slot earlier on. Levenson’s .537 slugging percentage is fourth on the team.
On the pitching staff, Miami has been grateful to have first-team All-ACC member Carson Palmquist. The Friday night starter, Palmquist finished fifth in the ACC in ERA (3.09), and his 100+ strikeout season was the first by a Hurricane since Evan McKendry in 2018.
Miami has not had a solid back-end starter. Alejandro Rosario was tabbed the Friday night starter after being a 2021 Freshman All-American and immediately struggled in his first outing. He has since been featured on most Sundays but has only qualified for a quality start a few times.
Moreover, the Canes midweek starter, Jake Garland, has struggled down the stretch as well against lesser opponents, so there aren't many solid options for the Canes to go with on the back end of the rotation. If anything, it seems this could be the team's Achilles' heel which ultimately brings them down this postseason.
Andrew Walters, Miami’s closer, has been one of the best in the country, holding down the back end of games for the Canes. Walters finished with a 1.20 ERA and was sixth in the country in saves (13). The right-hander didn’t allow a run until his seventeenth appearance of the season against Pittsburgh.
The Hurricanes, however, have struggled to show consistency at times. Miami rode a 14-game win streak after a 20-5 loss against Clemson, even sweeping then third-ranked Virginia in the process. Yet, down the stretch, Miami dropped two of their last three non-conference games and finished under their season average in runs in seven of their last eight games.
To advance to Omaha, Miami will have to bring their offense back to midseason form and stay entirely focused on each opponent.
No. 2 seed Arizona:
After making a trip to the College World Series last season, the Wildcats saw some major changes prior to this season that included losing coach Jay Johnson and future first-round pick Jacob Berry to LSU. After interviewing a number of candidates, Arizona brought in former player Chip Hale who returned to Tucson after being a coach in the MLB since 2007.
After sweeping the State Farm College Baseball Showdown to open the season, the Wildcats battled some inconsistency in the middle of the season. They swept a home series against eventual Pac-12 champion Stanford University and took two of three games against runner-up Oregon State University, but the team also lost series to each of the bottom three teams in the conference: Washington State University, University of Utah and USC.
The lineup is led by catcher Daniel Susac, who hit .367 this season with 12 home runs, 19 doubles and 61 RBIs. He is widely expected to be an early first-round pick in the upcoming MLB draft. The Wildcats also have Chase Davis, who saw limited playing time last season but exploded onto the scene this year hitting .292 with 16 home runs.
On the mound, TJ Nichols was the No. 1 starter for Arizona this season. He struggled at times, boasting a 5.51 ERA on the season. He did have some huge performances on the year, though that included allowing 2 runs across eight innings pitched against Stanford. He threw at least six innings in eight starts this year.
Garrett Irvin was the No. 2 starter for the Wildcats this season, the more steady starter for Arizona boasting a 3.22 ERA this season. He got lit up by Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament but closed the regular season strong, posting a 2.34 ERA across his final starts. Irvin is expected to start the opener of the regional against the Rebels on Friday.
No. 3 seed Ole Miss:
After falling a game short of Omaha for the second straight season, the Ole Miss baseball team, which led the SEC statistically in hitting in 2021, returned with eight of its nine starting position players for the 2022 season. Many speculated that Ole Miss would have the best offense in the country this season, and would be poised for a college World Series run.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, the 2022 season has not gone the way many expected it to, as what was expected to be a potent offense produced mediocre numbers all year, resulting in them nearly missing the NCAA tournament after being ranked number one in the D1 baseball poll in March. This season has been a big letdown for Rebel fans, but many are still hopeful that the team they expected to see will show up in the postseason.
Those who watched the Tucson super-regional a year ago will recognize nearly every player on the Ole Miss roster. The Rebel offense is led by the senior first baseman Tim Elko and sophomore shortstop Jacob Gonzales. Elko comes into the regional hitting .284 with 61 RBIs and 19 home runs. Gonzales leads the team in OPS with a 1.012 and has sent 17 balls over the fence and driven in 45 runs.
Ole Miss announced earlier in the week that it will throw Junior right-hander Dylan DeLucia against the Wildcats on Friday. DeLucia is the Rebels’ ace and leads the pitching staff in nearly every statistical category. DeLucia has really good fastball and slider command and is best when he gets ahead in the count and attacks hitters. The Rebels feel like they are at their best when he is on the mound.
Don’t let their record fool you. This Ole Miss team has one of the most talented offenses in the country, and if they click at the right time, they can be a real threat to win the regional.
No. 4 seed Canisius:
The Canisius Golden Griffins baseball team came into the season projected to finish third in the MAAC due to their high octane offense but lack of experience on the mound. The flaws Canisius had on the mound were prominent early, as the team struggled at different points closing out games. Fifth-year head coach Matt Mazurek was patient, however, as he kept working with the offense, which ran hot and cold throughout the season.
Despite their inexperience on the mound, Canisius has two high-caliber starters they can rely on in Matt Duffy and Chris Pouliot. They also rely heavily on freshman Peyton Consigli out of the pen to shut down games late. When it mattered most, the offense and pitching came together at their highest level, and the Griffs soared to the title as the third seed in the MAAC tournament. The Griffs are led offensively by sixth-year senior Vinny Chiarenza and sophomore Max Grant. These two embody the Griffs' approach at the plate. They’re incredibly patient, they battle hard and they’re incredibly strategic with how they put the ball in play. It is efficiency like this that allows the Griffs to be so successful.
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