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Stepping Up Down the Home Stretch

Stepping Up Down the Home Stretch

by David Villavicencio

Miami
(23-13, 14-12 ACC) at Boston College (17-21, 6-18 ACC)
Roster | Schedule

April 30 – May 2, 2021 | 7 p.m. | 3 p.m. |1 p.m.
Harrington Athletics Village | Brighton, Mass.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – It seems like the season started just the other day, but the Miami Hurricanes are already entering the final month of the 2021 regular season.

The Canes have only 13 scheduled games remaining before the ACC tournament and are looking to find consistent success as they prepare for the postseason.

“We really have to kick it into that extra gear as we head towards the end of the season,” infielder Anthony Vilar said. “At the same time, we’ve got to treat it like any other game that we’ve been playing this year. We have to come out with more focus and more energy all around, focus more on hitting, defensively and pitching-wise. It’s the last month of the season and we’ve got to kick it into that extra year to get ourselves in the best position possible for the ACC tournament and the postseason.”

At 23-13 and with an RPI in the top 20, Miami is likely headed toward its 47th NCAA postseason appearance and second under the leadership of head coach Gino DiMare. But the third-year skipper knows his team has a lot left to play for.

“It’s not where we want to be, but right now, you’ve got to be more concerned about where you are playing-wise as a team,” DiMare said. “We’ve got four weeks left to go in the regular season. They’re going to make the announcements, in terms of hosts, in two weeks. They’re not going to seed everybody, but they are going to make the announcements. We certainly have not played well enough or consistent enough up to this point to say that we can host.

“For me, I think the biggest key is to finish strong these last four weeks,” DiMare added. “We’ve got an opportunity this weekend to continue to play well, we’ve got Appalachian State, we only have one more midweek game, and then, of course, we finish up with Georgia Tech and Louisville, which are very highly ranked teams. Those series could come down to us possibly, possibly – if we play well all the way through – being a number one seed. We might be on the road, but you could be a number one seed. If we play well and win all these series out, I don’t see why we wouldn’t. At the end of the day, my concern is not so much rankings as it is on us playing the game the way I know we can play the game. And if we do that, then we can put ourselves in a position of, even if we weren’t hosting, maybe be a number one seed.”

This weekend, Miami heads to Brighton, Mass., for a three-game series at Boston College. The Eagles are 17-21 and just 6-18 in ACC play, but they have a talented roster led by some highly-touted prospects whom the Hurricanes are not taking lightly.

“Gino tells us all the time that any team in the ACC is going to be a tough matchup and we know it from playing in this league for a few years now,” outfielder Jordan Lala said. “We’ve just got to go in there and bring a lot of energy into every game and play our game and I think we’ll be alright.”

Offensively, Miami has looked better at the plate in recent weeks and players feel more comfortable hitting after many got off to slow starts in 2021. Now, the Canes are looking to get everyone feeling good at the plate at the same time.

“I think guys are just clicking,” Vilar said. “I’ve said before that hitting is contagious and we all really believe that. Some guys were getting hot early in the season and some guys are getting hot now. We’ve just got to find the middle ground that everybody’s just hitting on all cylinders. So, that’s where we’re trying to get to now and then we’ll take off from there.”

While the Hurricanes have started to have more confidence at the plate, DiMare is seeing an improved approach and better results in those at-bats and that bodes well for Miami.

“I feel good about our offense,” DiMare said. “Our offense is starting to swing the bat better. It’s very, very important for us to kind of pull this thing together and make a really good push and a run to where we expect to be playing at the end.”

Confidence plays a vital role in any team’s success and the Hurricanes have started to

“We know we have the talent to play with anyone in the country,” Lala said. “We’ve just got to go out there and play our game, have fun and bring a lot of energy. I think we’ve been swinging the bats pretty good and hopefully, we’ll swing them even better coming up.”

Miami’s offense has found more consistent success, but that is not the only aspect of the Hurricanes’ game that is trending upward. The UM bullpen has steadily improved beyond closer Carson Palmquist, with right-handers Daniel Federman, Jake Smith, Alex McFarlane, Anthony Arguelles and Andrew Walters, as well as lefties Spencer Bodanza and Alex Munroe, stepping up and pitching well when they get on the mound.

“A lot of guys are stepping up when their names are called and a lot of guys are pulling for each other to have success,” Federman said. “At the end of the day, you can’t win a game with three starters or three relievers. You’re going to need a lot of guys to be ready to contribute because every game is a different situation. People are going to have to constantly step up all year long and the guys have done a great job.”

While the bullpen has gotten into a groove, DiMare expects more from his starting pitchers and knows that their ability to pitch deeper into games will only help the bullpen continue its success.

“We feel good about our bullpen, it’s just about getting to them at the right time,” DiMare said. “We don’t need to be going to them in the fourth inning on weekends; that’s not what we want to do. So, I think a big key certainly is we’ve got to get our starters to go deeper in the game on these weekends and go to guys a little bit later instead of going to them early. I’m very confident in our bullpen. We have had some inconsistencies at times but, our bullpen is certainly one of the strengths of our team.”

Heading into this weekend’s series at Boston College, Miami understands the importance of winning and potentially sweeping series in May. With ACC tournament seeding and NCAA regional host sites still in flux, a positive stretch run could propel Miami into a favorable position.

“Mentality wise, we’ve got to know that it’s the end of the season and there’s no room for error and no room for hiccups,” Vilar said. “We’ve got to kick it into extra gear and focus throughout the game, and just have some strong-minded at-bats, strong-minded games and push through so we can finish the season strong and then we’ll focus on playoffs.”

“Every game matters,” Lala added. “We can’t take our foot off the gas. We’re coming down the homestretch here and this is the time where we’ve got to put it together and we’re going to make a run for it.”