The Miami Hurricanes were on a roll—at one point riding a 12-game win-streak from late-March through mid-April, earning “The U” the top spot in the rankings. Since then, some all-too-familiar backsliding.
Miami swept seventeenth-ranked Clemson at home and held court against ninth-ranked North Carolina. Prior to, the Canes also took 2-of-3 from fourth-ranked Louisville in Coral Gables.
UM was looking somewhat invincible for two months, after dropping a series to top-ranked Florida in late February. Over the past few weeks, not so much.
Miami fell to Duke, 12-5 in Game Two of their three-game series mid-April. From there, a 4-3 home loss to Florida Atlantic, followed by losing 2-of-3 at home against No. 20 Virginia—knocking the Canes from the top-ranked perch.
Since then, Miami took out some frustration on Florida A&M, outscoring the Rattlers, 36-12 last weekend at The Light—in nothing more than a scrimmage for the now fourth-ranked squad in the nation.
A dozen regular season games remain for the Canes—the lone true challenge, a road trip to Tallahassee the final weekend of the season against currently seventh-ranked Florida State.
Outside of that, it’s Florida Atlantic, Georgia Tech, Bethune-Cookman, Pittsburgh and Florida Gulf Coast all at home.
Baseball America rolled out their Projected Field of 64 on Wednesday, with Miami currently a two-seed—hosting in Coral Gables, with FAU, Kentucky and Princeton currently slated in for the Regionals.
The Canes sit at 33-8 with 12 to play, but Miami remains in good company as the Atlantic Coast Conference has four teams in the Top 10—fifth-ranked Louisville and ninth-ranked North Carolina State, joining the Canes and Noles.
Florida still sits atop the polls, with the SEC posting six teams in the Top 11—second-ranked Texas A&M, third-ranked Mississippi State, sixth-ranked Vanderbilt, eighth-ranked South Carolina and eleventh-ranked Ole Miss.
While Omaha remains the long-term goal for Miami—a short-term focus must be put on winning out (or coming damn close to doing so) and rolling into the ACC Baseball Championship as a top-seed in Durham late May.
Overtaking the Gators for that top spot—doable should Florida slip up here or there down the stretch—but at day’s end, it can’t be the focus. Mental errors have cost Miami here and there the past few weeks, which isn’t something that championship-caliber teams can afford at this point of the season.
“We didn’t play well, really—offensively or defensively and mentally in this game, as far as getting it done,” head coach Jim Morris said a few Sundays back. “When that happens, you’re not going to win against good teams. And [Virginia] is a good team.”
Besides being outhit by the Cavaliers in Game Three, the Canes also had a pair of base-running miscues that ended rallies in an eventual, 7-3 loss. Miami also didn’t post a hit until Zack Collins hit a two-run shot in the fourth with Virginia already leading, 3-0. A late ninth inning fielding error helped the Cavaliers tack on two more, making a Canes’ comeback that much more daunting.
Miami picked up a dominant 9-2 win the night before, but it came on the heels of a disappointing 6-5 loss on Friday night—a game where the Canes spotted the Cavaliers five first inning runs, before responding.
Trailing 6-4 in the ninth, an Edgar Michelangeli solo shot cut the deficit to one, but Jacob Heyward flied out with bases loaded and couldn’t help top-ranked Miami close thing out.
The setback marked the first time Miami had lost back-to-back games on the season, falling 4-3 to Florida Atlantic two days prior. Four days earlier, a 12-5 loss at Duke. The Canes won the series, but the lopsided loss ended a win-streak and sparked this mini-slump.
Hardly time for Miami to sound any panic alarm as the regular season road ahead is manageable and a top seeding in the conference tourney looks to be a shoo-in.
It’s simply a matter of these Hurricanes cutting out the mental mistakes, getting focused and realizing that it’s going to take a smarter, cleaner brand of baseball if this team has aspirations of winning it all this year.