New faces everywhere, Miami baseball is ready to send a shock through the college baseball world

University of Miami players perform their pregame prayer on May 10, 2023 against Florida International University at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

Coming off the heels of another season that ended by being knocked out of the regional round of the NCAA tournament, Hurricanes baseball is looking to rebrand its identity with a new head coach and new faces in the lineup in hopes of a trip to Omaha to cap off the season.

“It’s going to be a scrappy team,” new Miami baseball head coach J.D. Arteaga said. “It’s a team that’s going to put pressure on defenses on the bases. We’re not the fastest right, but you’re going to see an aggressive style of baseball on the bases.”

Some new faces that could emerge as star players are freshman third basemen Daniel Cuvet and graduate student infielder JD Urso.

Cuvet, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was a highly regarded prospect heading into this fall. He ranked No. 36 nationally for his class on Perfect Game, including being drafted in the 17th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cuvet has lived up to all this hype in the pre-season and should be a household name in just a short time.

Cuvet said, “I feel like in college we have way more focus on winning and being a winning baseball club … I love that. I’m a big winner and I think the guys around here are. Freshman player of the year is the biggest goal I have for myself.”

Urso, a transfer from the University of Tampa, was a key piece on an incredibly successful Tampa team last season. Urso slashed a solid .347 batting average with an on-base percentage of .441. While a new face for the Hurricanes, Urso should be a key veteran for many of the younger players, provide consistent production for the lineup, and provide solid defense at shortstop.

Even with all these new faces, Miami will continue relying on some old faces for production, especially early in the season. Guys like second basemen Blake Cyr and utility player Dorian Gonzalez Jr. will be staples in the heart of the order and vital for offensive success.

“Just to win. Just to play together as a team and really to show everyone what and how hard we’ve been working and really kind of to shock the college baseball world,” said Cyr on what he was most excited for on Friday.

Miami’s seemingly biggest strength heading into this season, as preached by Arteaga, is its strong, veteran starting pitching rotation. The return of Gage Ziehl to be the Friday night starter is vast, and he could cement himself as one of the nation’s top arms. However, adding veterans Rafe Schlesinger and Herrick Hernandez could make the UM rotation one of the most consistent in the ACC.

Schlesinger finds his way into the rotation this season after being a bullpen arm for the ‘Canes in 2022 and 2023, where he had plentiful success, most notably last year. Schlesinger posted a 3.38 ERA in 29.1 innings pitched, along with 34 strikeouts. Towards the end of last season, he became a go-to arm out of the pen, and Arteaga hopes he will slide easily into his new role as a starter.

Hernandez enters the rotation after transferring from Miami Dade College, where he was the Friday night starter. Hernandez posted a 2.86 ERA with 90 strikeouts in almost 80 innings pitched. While new to the Hurricane program, Hernandez is a veteran and has experience being a dominant arm that he will be able to bring to the Light every start.

The early season lineups will consist of experimenting with the starting nine and the bullpen until everything naturally falls into place for Arteaga. With so many new faces and potential impact players, there are many possible combinations for success that the ‘Canes will look to find and replicate as the season progresses.

Arteaga said, “The game has a funny way of figuring itself out and the lineups going to settle in when guys do their jobs and really take control of a position or role.”

The season is on deck for UM as it is set to take on the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in a four-game series to kick off the 2024 season. The first pitch of the new season is set for Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Mark Light Field, with ace Gage Ziehl on the mound.