So it’s back to McKethan Stadium for the Miami Hurricanes this post-season. “The U” wrapped the season 36-21, having gone 2-1 at the ACC Tournament after finishing the regular season going 7-8 down the stretch.
The number-two seeded Florida Gators have had Miami’s number as of late, winning nine of the past ten meetings. The Canes were swept in Gainesville earlier this year – 8-3, 1-0 and 5-3. Miami hasn’t beaten Florida since March 6th, 2010 – a 9-6 win at A-Rod Park sandwiched between two losses to the Gators, en route to losing the series. UM’s last win against UF at McKethan came on March 1st, 2009.
Florida ran Miami out of the post-season each of the past two seasons. In 2010, two straight losses in the Super Regional – 7-2 and a 4-3 extra innings stunner. The previous season Miami opened the Gainesville Regional with a 9-4 win over Jacksonville, lost the second game to Florida, 8-2 and beat Jacksonville 4-0 an an elimination game, setting up a rematch with the Gators. The Canes needed to win two in a row to advance but instead got smoked 16-5 in another elimination game.
There’s been some chatter about where the sixteenth-ranked Canes are seeded. Some were hoping to host the opening round, but at minimum, felt that a lighter bracket and no first-round showdown with the second-seeded Gators was deserved.
However it played out, Miami is headed to Gainesville and faces a familiar foe. McKethan Stadium is tough, but it’s also someplace these Canes have played – as opposed to being shipped off somewhere foreign for the post-season.
Second baseman Zeke DeVoss was quoted as seeing the ACC Tournament and post-season as an opportunity, not a challenge. DeVoss backed this up with tremendous play against North Carolina, Virginia and Wake Forest in Durham last week, going 8-of-10 at the conference tourney with an .857 on-base percentage.
Can DeVoss’ mojo rub off on his teammates for a few games this weekend? Florida is beatable, but they’re the better team and they have Miami’s number. That’s not to say the Canes can’t step up and take the power back, but will they? Based on recent history it’s hard to believe that this is the time it all comes to a head.
Florida went 45-16 on the season, won the SEC Tournament and earned the No. 2 seed overall. The Gators closed out the regular season 8-5, losing one apiece to Kentucky and Vanderbilt, dropping two – and the series – to Arkansas and getting smoked by Gainesville Regional opponent Jacksonville, 11-2 on May 17th.
Miami opens tournament play with a 12:00pm ET showdown with Jacksonville and Florida takes on Manhattan immediately after, with first pitch set for 4:00pm ET. The winners face the winners and losers take on the losers (in an elimination game) on Saturday, with an eventual regional champ crowned on Sunday.
After an up and down season, Miami holds its collective fate in its hands. This isn’t the time to bitch about who the regional opponent it, games that got away or where this season went off track. Right now it’s about winning a few ballgames and getting to that next round – and doing so against a long-time rival in a familiar setting.
After seeing what Jacksonville did to Florida weeks back, Miami knows it can’t sleep on game one. Without a win over the Dolphins, there will be no guaranteed showdown with the Gators.
Winning the Gainesville Regional is doable, if these Canes choose this as their time to step up … and that remains the biggest ‘if’ of the season.