Miami Hurricanes Baseball: Canes Face Early Test With No. 1 Florida Coming to Town

Jun 13, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; Miami Hurricanes pitcher Bryan Garcia (19) pitches against the Florida Gators in the eighth inning in the 2015 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Florida defeated Miami 15-3. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; Miami Hurricanes pitcher Bryan Garcia (19) pitches against the Florida Gators in the eighth inning in the 2015 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Florida defeated Miami 15-3. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

For most of the top ranked teams in college baseball, the first few weekends are filled with “cupcake games” used to shake off the cobwebs and to prepare for the start of the conference slate. For the Miami Hurricanes, this weekend will be far from a series of “cupcake games”.

Just four games and a week into the college baseball season, two of the best teams in the nation will face off as the No. 6 Miami Hurricanes (4-0) host the No. 1 Florida Gators (5-0) for three massive games at Mark Light Field. Not only will the series serve as a measuring stick for both teams early on, but a series win for either team could go a long way in determining the national seeds come May.

“It’s a huge series and probably the biggest matchup in the whole country,” Coach Jim Morris said of the team’s upcoming games with Florida. “It’s a series that you come to schools like Miami to play in. You come to play in big games, you come to play in the College World Series and a series like this is why you come here.”

Included in all of the buzz around this series is also the fact that the Hurricanes will be looking for revenge when the Gators arrive in Coral Gables. A season ago, the Gators not only took two of three from the Canes in Gainesville, but they thoroughly dominated them in Omaha as well with two wins by a combined score of 25-5.

“We are just going into these games with a chip on our shoulder,” Thomas Woodrey said when asked about Florida eliminating the Canes last year. “We want to play them tough, we want to win and they finished us off last year so we have to use that as motivation going into this weekend.”

Woodrey (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will start Friday night for Coach Morris and the Canes hoping to use that motivation to start the series off on the right foot. While it will certainly be a tough matchup against Florida No. 1 starter Logan Shore (1-0, 1.80 ERA), the senior was actually the only pitcher to win against the Gators last season. In 6.2 innings, the southpaw gave up just one earned run and five hits on the way to a 7-2 Hurricanes victory.

“I just have to pitch my game and stay within myself,” Woodrey said. “I have to trust that if I do what I’m supposed to, it’ll take care of itself.”

Against a Gators team that has averaged 8.8 runs per game in their five games this season, the task will certainly be difficult for Miami’s No. 1. If Woodrey can locate his fastball and keep the Florida hitters off-balance with his tremendous breaking ball though, the senior could easily replicate his success from a season ago.

On Saturday night, we’ll get to see a fun matchup between two electric lefthanded arms in Michael Mediavilla (1-0, 0.00 ERA) and A.J. Puk (0-0, 0.00 ERA). Mediavilla was very impressive in his first career start against Rutgers, but will face a whole different challenge against the likes of Buddy Reed, J.J. Schwarz, Peter Alonzo and Ryan Larson on Saturday night. The scary thing about that list is the fact that Florida has three other hitters in Deacon Liput, Dalton Guthrie and Mike Rivera that are all hitting better than those four.

Mediavilla faced a lot of pressurized situations last year out of the bullpen so I don’t expect that to rattle him, but this Florida lineup has the potential to strike early and often.

On the other side, Florida will start A.J. Puk who could be a top 10 pick in next year’s draft with his overpowering fastball that can reach from the mid to high-90’s. His control can be an issue and he only pitched four innings in his first start of the season against FGCU, but if he is on he’s almost unhittable.

The final matchup between the two teams on Sunday will be very interesting as we’ll see Danny Garcia (1-0, 0.00 ERA) go against the pitcher that eliminated the Canes last year in righthander Alex Faedo (1-0, 1.59 ERA). This will be a huge outing to see if Garcia can hold his own against the top competition after being the midweek starter a season ago.

On paper, Florida’s starters may have the edge, but this Miami offense certainly has the confidence that they can produce all weekend long.

“Uh, yeah, they are solid,” the unimpressed Jacob Heyward said of Florida’s rotation. “We still feel like we have a great lineup though. I think last year in the College World Series we hit a lot of balls right at people and while they have a good staff, we definitely feel that we can get it done.”

If Miami wants to have any chance to just pick up one of these games this weekend, that lineup will certainly have to be much more productive than they were Wednesday night against St. Thomas. Against the NAIA school, the Hurricanes left a school-record 22 men on base and just narrowly edged the Bobcats 7-6. When you play a team like Florida, you won’t get away with that many missed opportunities.

The biggest key to victory for Miami this weekend though could be their bullpen. While the Gators may have an edge in the rotation and in their starting lineup, the Canes certainly have the edge in the bullpen with the trio of Frankie Bartow, Cooper Hammond and Bryan Garcia. With the way those three guys have pitched so far, the Hurricanes can almost make it a six-inning game with those three shutdown guys ready to go in the bullpen. If Miami has a lead late in the game, they cannot afford for their one clear advantage to give up a lead.

To have a series with so many implications so early on in the season, these three games will give both teams a measuring stick as to where they stand early on. Even with all the pressure and the consequences that ride on this matchups, the Miami players are clearly looking forward to this high-profile series.

“It’s definitely going to tell us what we’ve got,” closer Bryan Garcia said when asked about this important series so early on in the season. “We’re excited, everyone knows they’re good and that’s why their ranked No. 1 nation, but we believe we can compete with them and we expect every game to be a great one.”

In contrast to the usual “cupcake games” at the start of the season, the Miami Hurricanes will face perhaps their toughest challenge this weekend against Florida. With the motivation from last year’s losses and elimination from the College World Series, there’s no doubt Coach Morris and his staff will have the team fired up come Friday night. Combining that with the intensity this series is always played with, we should be in store for three riveting games this weekend.

Probable Starting Pitchers

Game 1 – Friday at 7 p.m.: RHP Logan Shore (1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. LHP Thomas Woodrey (1-0, 1.80 ERA)

Game 2 – Saturday at 7 p.m.: LHP A.J Puk (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. LHP Michael Mediavilla (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Game 3: – Sunday at 1 p.m.: RHP Alex Faedo (1-0, 1.59 ERA) vs. LHP Danny Garcia (1-0, 0.00 ERA)