In sports, they always say to play like it’s your last game. In 2020, the Miami Hurricanes baseball team learned this the hard way, when the season was canceled as it was seemingly just beginning. UM spent a week ranked No. 1 in the nation. They boasted arguably the best weekend starting rotation. And after opening the Atlantic Coast Conference season with a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh, the Canes looked to be finding their groove just in time for the thick of the schedule.
But between a midweek win at No. 12 Central Florida and a conference road series at Virginia Tech, Miami was faced was heartbreaking news: their promising season was being suspended immediately due to Covid-19. Less than a week later, the seemingly inevitable decision of an absolute cancellation was confirmed. With a 12-4 record and a 3-0 ACC mark, hopes of a College World Series appearance or even a national championship were dashed by circumstances outside of the team’s control.
But better news would soon greet the Hurricanes. The NCAA gave all spring sport student-athletes an extra year of eligibility to make up for missed time in 2020. And a number of the program’s stars would get called to move on up to the next step in their careers.
That pitching staff that was so dominant in 2020? Major League Baseball organizations also got word about how valuable each arm was. Sophomore Slade Cecconi was picked up by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 33 rd overall selection. Junior Chris McMahon went soon after at No. 46 to the Colorado Rockies. And senior Brian Van Belle signed a free-agent contract with the Boston Red Sox after an extraordinary 2020 campaign in Coral Gables, logging a 0.68 ERA and 38 strikeouts over four starts.
“Van Belle coined the term ‘three-headed monster’ and people would all say it a lot, but it was true,” Cecconi said through MiamiHurricanes.com. “The three of us would go out there every weekend and everyone would know how it was going to be. He was going to lock it down on
Friday, McMahon was going to lock it down Saturday and I was going to try and lock it down on Sunday, so it’s just three great arms going out there and competing every weekend to help our team win. We all motivated each other. The biggest thing was just the work ethic and competitiveness we had. No matter who was throwing which day, we all wanted to go out there and push each other to be the best we can be.”
Joining the three starting pitchers in signing professional contracts was relief hurler Tyler Keysor (free agent, Cincinnati Reds) and shortstop Freddy Zamora (53 rd overall pick, Milwaukee Brewers).
While it may seem as though this crop of talent is irreplaceable, fans can bet the Canes will come back even stronger in 2021. Almost the entire batting order will return, featuring impact hitters in catcher Adrian Del Castillo, first baseman Alex Toral, and third baseman Raymond Gil.
Bullpen pieces Daniel Federman and JP Gates will make bigger contributions on the mound, while an incoming freshman class ranked second nationally by Perfect Game will help keep Miami in an elite group of teams.