The Gino DiMare era officially kicked off for the Hurricanes Feb. 15 at Mark Light Field. Miami secured its first series sweep over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights since 2016.
“I’ve talked about setting the tone for the season, and I don’t think you can draw it up any better than that,” DiMare said.
Here are three takeaways from the opening series:
1. Phenomenal freshmen
The Hurricanes brought in the No. 10 recruiting class in the country, according to Baseball America.
While rankings can be flashy, the college game is very different than the high school level.
Yet, freshmen Anthony Vilar and Adrian Del Castillo were not fazed by the spotlight.
“The freshmen guys didn’t seem overwhelmed at all,” DiMare said. “They seemed very calm, and I was very happy to see that because this is a big deal. These are local guys, a lot of them. Vilar grew up right here in this ballpark. There’s got to be a little something going on before your first opportunity to play here.”
Vilar started at second base and went 7-for-11 (.636), which leads the conference among players with at least 10 at-bats.
Del Castillo drove in a team-high seven runs as part of a 7-for-15 (.467) weekend. The prized rookie served as the team’s designated hitter.
“Del Castillo has been special since Day One, so we all knew that,” DiMare said. “I was really, really impressed and certainly happy to see Vilar swing the bat.”
Heralded hurlers JP Gates and Slade Cecconi combined to toss three scoreless innings, allowing just three hits. The duo racked up five strikeouts.
2. Offensive outburst
The Hurricanes have struggled at the plate the last two seasons, which was a big reason why Miami missed out on the postseason both years. The Hurricanes batted just .257 and scored only 4.8 runs per game in 2018.
However, this season, the bats have gotten off to a hot start.
The Hurricanes batted .348 and scored 35 runs against the Scarlet Knights, including a program opening day record 19 runs.
“It’s so hard to gauge in the preseason,” DiMare said of his offense. “I have confidence in our guys, but until you really get out there and start doing it…I’m starting to see some guys and going, ‘Oooh, this could be special.’”
Seven different Hurricanes slashed above .300 in the first weekend, including 2018 Freshman All-American Freddy Zamora. Zamora, who slugged just one home run during his rookie campaign, notched a .417 average and blasted a homer.
“I definitely noticed the ball was jumping off the bat more than it did last year,” Zamora said. “It’s all about approach at the plate and getting a good pitch to hit and a pitch to drive.”
Fellow sophomore Alex Toral, who struggled mightily during his freshman year with a .161 average and one home run, hit a pair of round-trippers in the first two games.
3. Pitching dominance
As prolific as the Hurricanes’ offense was against the Scarlet Knights, Miami’s pitching dominated as well.
UM tallied a 1.67 ERA and held Rutgers to just seven runs.
A 2018 All-ACC Third Team selection, Evan McKendry, tossed six innings, allowed three runs on four hits while striking out eight and walking just one. McKendry retired the first 10 hitters he faced.
“It was awesome, I mean a dream come true,” McKendry said. “I always wanted to be the Friday night here. It was just a great experience.”
Sophomore starter Chris McMahon followed up McKendry with five innings of one-run ball, surrendering just three hits.
Brian Van Belle dazzled in his Hurricanes debut, pitching six scoreless innings. The redshirt junior allowed five hits and one walk while striking out five.
“It feels great that I finally got it under my belt,” the Broward College transfer said. “I’m hungry for more.”