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Canes Picked to Win ACC Coastal Division

by David Villavicencio

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The Miami Hurricanes were picked as the preseason favorite to win the ACC Coastal Division in a poll of the league’s 14 head coaches, the conference office announced Thursday.

Miami, tabbed by seven of 14 coaches as the likely division winner, is looking for its first Coastal title since 2016. The Hurricanes have won the division four times since joining the ACC in 2005. Miami won its first division crown in 2008 and won three consecutive Coastal titles from 2014-16.

Virginia garnered five first-place votes and Georgia Tech earned the other two. The Hurricanes tallied 89 total points in the balloting, followed by Virginia (85) and Georgia Tech (71). Duke placed fourth in the voting with 59 points, followed by North Carolina (40), Virginia Tech (31) and Pitt (17).

Louisville (95 points) was selected to win the Atlantic Division with 11 first-place votes, while NC State, Florida State and Clemson had one each. The Cardinals were followed by NC State (74) and Florida State (73) in the voting. Clemson (48) placed fourth, followed by Wake Forest (45), Boston College (39) and Notre Dame (18).

Four teams received votes as the likely overall ACC winner, but Louisville came out on top with nine votes. Miami and Virginia earned two votes each, while Florida State had one.

The Canes were the only undefeated Coastal team in an abbreviated 2020 season a year ago. Miami swept division foe Pitt in a three-game series at Mark Light Field on March 6-8, just days before the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the college baseball season. The Hurricanes finished second in the Coastal in 2019 with an 18-12 ACC record.

The Hurricanes, who brought in Baseball America’s No. 1 recruiting class, are ranked No. 6 in Collegiate Baseball’s Fabulous 50 NCAA Division I Pre-Season Poll and No. 7 in Perfect Game’s preseason rankings. Miami is also ranked No. 10 by the NCBWA, No. 11 by Baseball America, No. 15 by the NCBWA and No. 21 in D1 Baseball’s preseason poll.

A quartet of preseason All-Americans is expected to lead Miami this season, headlined by Baseball America first-team selections Adrian Del Castillo and Alex Toral. Two-way player Ben Wanger has also earned preseason All-America accolades, picking up a second-team distinction by Collegiate Baseball, while fellow two-way standout JP Gates garnered third-team honors from Perfect Game.

A year ago, under the direction of head coach Gino DiMare, the Canes went 12-4 (3-0 ACC) in the shortened season. Miami finished the season ranked as high as No. 5 by Baseball America and was in the top 15 of all six major pollsThe Canes came in at No. 7 in the D1 Baseball Top 25, USA TODAY Coaches Poll and NCBWA Top 25, No. 9 in the final Collegiate Baseball poll and No. 11 in Perfect Game’s final top 25.

Miami brings back one of the deepest lineups in the country, with eight of its nine starting hitters from a season ago returning to Coral Gables for the 2021 season.

Del Castillo headlines the potent Miami offense, as the third-year catcher is considered among the best prospects in the 2021 MLB Draft class. The Miami native has been a hitting machine in his two years at
The U, hitting .336 with 24 doubles, 14 home runs and 87 RBI over 77 games played.

Toral, who was the ACC home run king with 24 round-trippers in 2019, brings his big bat back to the heart of Miami’s lineup after hitting .296 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 16 games a year ago. Infielder Anthony Vilar (.297, 5 2B, 15 RBI) will look to continue his success in his third season at Miami, while outfielder Gabe Rivera, Tony Jenkins and Jordan Lala all return for another season with the Canes.

Veteran Daniel Federman brings experience to the pitcher’s mound, as the right-hander is back for a fourth season with the Hurricanes. A year ago, Federman had a 2.08 ERA, three saves and 11 strikeouts over 8.2 innings pitched as Miami’s closer, but he is expected to transition to a starter’s role in 2021. Wanger, a graduate transfer who was a second-team All-American a year ago at USC (3 SV, 0.00 ERA, 8 K), is expected to take over as Miami’s closer this season.

In addition to the talented returners on Miami’s roster, the Hurricanes brought in the top recruiting class in the nation according to both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. The Hurricanes landed five top-200 players, including three top-100 recruits, among Baseball America’s individual player rankings – leading the nation in both categories.

Right-handed pitcher Victor Mederos is Miami’s top-rated recruit according to Baseball America, coming in at No. 59 overall. Fellow right-hander Alejandro Rosario (60) and shortstop Yohandy Morales (77) make up the trio of top-100 prospects.

Catcher Carlos Perez (137) and right-handed pitcher Jake Smith (146) round out the top-200 prospects, while outfielder/first baseman CJ Kayfus (344) gives Miami six of the top 350 prospects in the 2020 MLB Draft class, according to Baseball America.