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Miami Hurricanes 2014 baseball preview

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The Miami Hurricanes baseball team opens its season on Friday at home against Maine with its eyes set on making it to Omaha and the College World Series for the first time since 2008.

Miami is ranked 16th in the nation by Baseball America and has a roster full of talent that could very well get the Hurricanes to the midwest come June. That talent begins with a stellar four-man starting rotation that should be even better than a season ago.

That rotation begins with No. 1 starter Chris Diaz, who finished 7-5 a season ago with a 1.64 ERA, good for second best in the ACC. Bryan Radziewski was right behind Diaz with a record 9-3 and 1.78 ERA, third best in the ACC. Radziewski was also fourth in strikeouts in the ACC with 109 in 2013. Diaz will take the mound in Friday’s opener against Maine.

The third starter is Andrew Suarez, who struggled at times a season ago with a record of 3-6 and a 3.95 ERA. However, the team says Suarez has increased the velocity of his fastball up towards the mid-90s and could be UM’s top draft prospect this season. Javi Salas is Miami’s No. 4 starter and will most likely be the team’s mid-week starter. Salas went 5-5 in 2013 with an ERA of 3.18.

The pitching staff performed well a season ago but was put in tight spots too often due to Miami’s struggles at the plate. The Hurricanes hit a mere .258 as a team in 2013 with just 14 home runs despite 247 RBI. That lack of offense made for a quick exit in the Louisville Regional when Miami lost to Oklahoma State 7-1 in an elimination game, a game in which it only mustered four hits.

Miami’s incoming recruiting class is ranked 6th by Baseball America though and should provide the offense a much needed boost. Freshman Zack Collins hit .388 with 31 RBI and five home runs his senior year at American Heritage-Plantation and was drafted in the 27th round by the Cincinnati Reds before deciding to put his professional career on hold to attend Miami. Collins will play first base and is expected to bat third in the lineup.

Willie Abreu was also drafted by the Reds in the 14th round but opted to join his longtime friend Collins in Coral Gables. Abreu hit .513 in his senior season for the Hialeah Mater Academy with six home runs and will play right field for the Hurricanes.

Miami’s offense will also get a boost from a healthy David Thompson, who had shoulder surgery in the offseason. Thompson hit .286 as a freshman last season with six home runs and 46 RBI.

The Hurricanes were also ranked 16th by Baseball America before last season but struggled at various points in 2013, finishing under .500 in the ACC (37-25, 14-16) before being ousted in the Louisville Regional. Miami’s pitching staff will hold its own this season in the ACC but it’ll be up to the offense whether or not this team becomes one of the best in the conference and makes a run towards Omaha.

PREDICTION: Miami finishes 5th in the ACC and hosts a Regional but falls just short of Omaha with a loss in the Super Regionals.

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