The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

How do things look for the Canes?

There has been much consternation in Hurricane Baseball land this year. Coming into the season, expectations were high. Most everyone was returning from last year (and even the year before's) College World Series team, so folks felt this year the team was primed not only to reach Omaha, but to make a serious run at the national title.

Then injuries started to plague the team, and there are the unexplained, indefinite suspensions to Gaby Sanchez and Marcelo Albir which further robbed the team of needed depth (as we watch former contributors like Joey Hooft - at Arizona State - and Greg Dini and Matt Barket at Tulane fill major roles for other clubs).

That was followed by a typically sluggish start to the season, which included series losses (with one win and two defeats in each series) against non-conference, but arch-rival nonetheless Florida, and new conference foe Georgia Tech. Gloom and doom set in amongst the Hurricane faithful. It seemed that all was lost and folks started to talk of not only not making it to Omaha this year, but the likelihood that the Canes might not even host a regional this season.

Recently though, the tide has turned. Fueled by a sweep over lowly Virginia Tech (who the Canes struggle to beat in seemingly every sport), the Canes traveled up to Chapel Hill last week and won two (and tied another) against North Carolina and their vaunted pitching staff (which entered the weekend with a team era under 2.00).

Now it's mid-April and the Canes are in second place in the conference and ranked highly in all the major polls. In my favorite rankings, Boyd's World's Pseudo-RPI (Boyd's World is a great place for college baseball information), the Canes are ranked 5th this week.

Two of the teams ahead of them are Florida and Georgia Tech. Maybe those early season series losses weren't so bad after all. The other two higher ranked teams are Texas and Tulane - both of whom had higher expectations than the Canes coming into the year, so everyone knew that a trip to Omaha would run through them ultimately anyway.

The moral of the story is that it's mid-April and things look pretty good for the Canes right now. There are 12 regular season ACC games left (and three more non-conference games). Winning each series is critical - but winning each conference game might be more so, as each loss makes a regular season conference title less likely (although the regular season ACC doesn't count for much, other than better seeding in the conference tournament - where the winner receives an automatic tournament bid).


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