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Canes Eager to Begin Quest for Omaha

By Josh White
HurricaneSports.com

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — One simple five-letter word is said in unison when the Hurricanes baseball team breaks a huddle before taking the field: Omaha.

The destination and expectation was established long before any of the current Canes donned the orange and green, but after a few seasons that were uncharacteristic of the program that boasts four national championships and 25 trips to the College World Series, steps back in the right direction have been accomplished. 

The Hurricanes will open the 2020 season as a consensus top-10 team, according to six different media outlets, the most in program history. Miami is ranked No. 3 by D1 Baseball, No. 4 by Collegiate Baseball, No. 5 by Baseball America, No. 5 by NCBWA, No. 7 by Perfect Game and No. 7 in the USA TODAY preseason baseball poll.
While, Miami is a popular pick to reach the College World Series, the Hurricanes are focused on the present.

“You can see the excitement getting back into the program,” said head coach Gino DiMare, who enters his second season as skipper and his 21st year on the coaching staff. “Kind of knowing we were close — not quite there, but we were close. And now the expectations are where they should be at Miami, where everybody expects us to get to Omaha and have a chance to win.” 

DiMare continued, “We haven’t played a game yet. What have we done? We had a good year last year, certainly better than the expectations with a young team. The potential is there but all that means is we haven’t done it yet.”

Miami had an impressive first season under DiMare, winning 41 games and returning to the NCAA postseason for the first time since 2016. The Canes earned the 46th postseason berth in program history and reached the Starkville Regional final before falling to No. 6 Mississippi state.

The Hurricanes return eight starting position players and three starting pitchers from a season ago, including All-ACC performers Adrian Del Castillo, Brian Van Belle and Raymond Gil.

For this group, a trip back to an NCAA Regional won’t be enough. DiMare’s squad has bigger goals.

“Personally, we don’t try and look at that stuff. At the start of the season, everybody is 0-0,” said junior first baseman Alex Toral, who blasted an Atlantic Coast Conference-best 24 home runs “Everything that happened last year, happened last year. We’re just trying to get after it and work hard.” 

Five different Hurricanes have been named preseason All-Americans, including Del Castillo, Van Belle, Gil, Toral and sophomore right-hander Slade Cecconi. 
Despite the individual preseason accolades, Miami has remained even keeled and motivated to finish the job.

“It doesn’t really affect me at all,” Del Castillo said. “It has the word ‘pre’ in front of it, so, I mean, it doesn’t really mean anything right now. It obviously means something at the end of the season. That’s what I’m looking for.”

Fans will have their first chance to catch this year’s squad when the Hurricanes host their annual FanFest & Alumni Game on Sat., Feb 8 at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.

The annual event, free and open to the public, will feature an autograph session with the team, a face painting station, photos with the Miami Maniac and more. There will also be a special opportunity for Canes baseball season ticket holders to win exclusive prizes before the annual Alumni Game begins at 6 p.m.

“It’s great to get our feet wet. We’ve been playing a lot of scrimmages, but it’ll be cool to play against someone else,” said junior right-hander Daniel Federman. “It’s awesome to see the support we have from the fans. I was in their shoes at one point and just to see how excited they are is incredible.”

See below for a full schedule of the FanFest & Alumni Game events.

4:00 PM                 Gates open for FanFest

  • Ticket & group information and Select-a-Seat begins

4:00 PM-               Team Autograph Session Begins (location near locker room)
5:00 PM                                
               
4:15 PM-               Alumni Batting Practice on Field
5:00 PM 

5:15 PM                 Alumni Introductions                                       
 
6:00 PM                 2020 Miami Hurricanes Baseball Alumni Game