Hurricane Aces: Starters Flourishing on Mound
By Josh White
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — J.D. Arteaga has helped groom some of the finest pitchers in the country during his 18 years on the Hurricanes’ coaching staff.
Names like Detroit Tigers’ reliever Bryan Garcia, former Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year Chris Diaz and first-round draft picks Carlos Gutierrez, Chris Perez and Cesar Carrillo have grabbed national attention.
And 2020 is no different.
Preseason All-American Brian Van Belle and potential first-round draft choices Chris McMahon and Slade Cecconi headline one of the best rotations in the country.
The Canes are the lone team in the ACC and one of just two programs in the top-25 to return three pitchers who made at least 12 starts a year ago.
“All three of us could be Friday night guys at any school,” McMahon said. “With most teams you get to Saturday or Sunday and maybe we aren’t facing some absolute dude, but with this rotation you are. … All three days you’re going to have a tough time facing the rotation we have coming at you.”
Through its first seven games, Miami is fifth in the nation in strikeout to walk ratio, recording 94 punch outs compared to only 17 free passes. The Hurricanes’ starting rotation boasts a 1.89 ERA.
On Wednesday against in-state foe USF, freshman Alex McFarlane will get the nod. In his first career start, McFarlane pitched two scoreless frames, striking out three.
The St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands native is another highly-touted arm who has the chance of becoming a reliable hurler for the Hurricanes.
“He’s got a lot of development ahead of him, but pure stuff, he’s about as good as they come,” Arteaga said of McFarlane. “The starting rotation is going to give you a chance to win every time you go out there.”
Van Belle has set the tone on Friday nights, tossing 13 innings without allowing an earned run. He set a career high with 10 strikeouts against Rutgers to open the season.
The redshirt senior was named an All-ACC Second Team selection after becoming the first Hurricane in three years to win 10 games. He recorded a 3.31 ERA in his first campaign in the orange and green.
“Van Belle could have been drafted last year,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare. “I’m not sure we’re ranked in the top 10 in all of these polls without him coming back.”
Added Arteaga, “The thing about Brian Van Belle is you know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get his best that day. He’s always going to compete and throw strikes. …No moment gets too big for him.”
McMahon has followed Van Belle the first two turns around the rotation. The junior was named to the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Watch List before the start of the season. The hard-throwing right-hander spent last summer with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.
His success on the mound over the summer has translated into the spring. McMahon has notched a 2.25 ERA and tallied 18 strikeouts in only 12 innings pitched.
While Cecconi twirled 5.1 no-hit innings to open up his sophomore season. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound right-hander, who was named a Freshman All-American a year ago, has struck out 15 hitters and just issued two walks in 11 innings.
Under Arteaga, Miami has had at least one pitcher selected in the MLB Draft each year since 2004.
And Cecconi and McMahon have the next opportunity to extend that streak.
“They have first-round stuff,” DiMare said of McMahon and Cecconi. “If those guys have great years, they have a chance to go in the first round.”
Arteaga has been impressed with the Canes’ rotation in the early going, but pitching deep into June is what UM is focused on.
“Of course, the story will be told at the end of the season, but on pure stuff, this is the best starting staff I’ve ever had,” Arteaga said.