Canes baseball ranked No. 1 after opening weekend sweep

Albert Maury pitches in relief during Miami's Alumni Game on Feb. 8 at Mark Light Field. Photo credit: Josh Halper

The Miami Hurricanes received some big news Monday morning, a day after completing their season-opening sweep of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights: They are now the No. 1 team in the nation.

The Hurricanes (3-0) topped the D1 Baseball rankings after entering the opening series at the No. 3 spot, behind only defending national champions Vanderbilt and Atlantic Coast Conference foe Louisville. But a 4-3 opening night loss by the No. 2 Commodores at the hands of Michigan in a rematch of last year’s National Championship, along with a pair of losses by No. 1 Louisville at No. 25 Ole Miss this weekend propelled Miami into the top spot.

Just one spot behind UM are the No. 2 Florida Gators, who are off a weekend sweep of their own against Marshall. The pair of in-state rivals will square off at Mark Light Field this weekend for a three-game series in one of the most anticipated early season series for either side in years.

Miami tops the rankings for the first time since April 2016, in a season where they advanced to the College World Series and finished with a 51-15 overall record.

D1 Baseball are the rankings used by the NCAA for official statistical purposes. The Canes also made the Top 10 in other outlets’ rankings, including Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and USA Today.

Miami went 3-0 this weekend against Rutgers in a dominant display of both pitching and hitting despite multiple disruptions due to inclement weather. The starting rotation, comprised of redshirt senior Brian Van Belle, junior Chris McMahon and sophomore Slade Cecconi pitched a combined 18 innings and surrendered a total of 11 hits and three runs while striking out a combined 27 batters.

Van Belle set a personal best with 10 strikeouts in his Friday night debut, where the Canes won 2-1. McMahon started Saturday night and allowed just two runs on five hits over six innings, while striking out nine batters. Cecconi completed the sweep with an eight strikeout outing on Sunday. The sophomore had a no-hitter going through five and a third innings before he gave up two hits and one run.

“I don’t recall a weekend ever in my career where we had weather that was just all over the place, but we handled it,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “Thats regional baseball right there, that’s NCAA tournament baseball because a lot of time you get whether in June and you have to make adjustments on the fly.”

After a slow hitting night on Friday that featured only a two-run RBI from sophomore catcher Adrian Del Castillo, the Hurricanes flipped a switch on Saturday and exploded offensively. Del Castillo hit two home runs on a messy Saturday night game that was suspended in the seventh inning due to rain. Prior to the suspension, junior outfielder Gabe Rivera smashed a grand slam in the seventh inning to give Miami a 7-2 lead that was increased to 8-2 after JP Gates hit a solo home run when the game resumed on Sunday. On Sunday’s regular scheduled game, Miami tallied 13 runs, highlighted by two hits from junior Tony Jenkins, Rivera and sophomore Anthony Vilar.

The Hurricanes will be next in action at home on Wednesday at 6 p.m. when they take on Kent State in a single game before turning their attention to the pivotal weekend series against the Gators.

DiMare emphasized the importance of not overlooking this year’s midweek games despite the highly anticipated weekend matchup.

“You can’t think that ahead,” DiMare said. “That was a big problem for us in ‘17 and ‘18, we did not play well in mid week games and from my point of view we weren’t ready to play in those game and those games count too. We know the other series of the weekend, how big that is, but we cannot think ahead. So we better be ready to play and I’m sure we will be.”