Takeaways from Miami baseball’s non-conference play

Senior right-handed pitcher Ben Chestnutt throws a pitch during Miami's game against Stonehill at Mark Light Field on March 6, 2024. Photo credit: Alexandra Fisher

Capping off its non-conference schedule with a comeback win against Stonehill College, Miami heads into conference play this weekend with many new faces emerging as stars. That being said, there are still blatant holes in offense and on the mound that need attention to succeed in conference play.

Starting with the positives, newcomers to the starting lineup, freshman Daniel Cuvet, and sophomore Jason Torres, have been on fire to begin the 2024 season. Cuvet is batting an insane .548, has six home runs, and has an OPS of 1.746. These numbers are unheard of for a freshman in his first few weeks of collegiate ball.

Not far behind Cuvet is Torres, who is hitting an even .500, has seven home runs and has an OPS of 1.582. Cuvet and Torres have been carrying the Hurricane offense out of the heart of the lineup and look to continue their elite production into conference play.

Heading out to the mound, newcomers to the weekend rotation junior Rafe Schlessinger and junior Herick Hernandez have been lights out. The starting rotation was a significant concern as Gage Ziehl was the only returner. Still, those concerns have vanished as Schlessinger and Hernandez have shined, including quality starts from both arms against No. 4 Florida.

Schlessinger enters conference play with a 2.08 ERA and 25 strikeouts through three starts, and Hernandez enters conference play with a 1.59 ERA and 26 strikeouts through three starts. These guys have been dominant, and they will need to continue their dominance for UM to be successful in conference play, as opposing lineups will only get better and better.

As for the weaknesses of this ’Canes ballclub, the most glaring is its lack of pitching depth. Aside from the weekend rotation, Nick Robert has been the only dependable arm night in and night out on the mound. Only two Miami relievers have a sub 4.00 ERA, and many of those ERA’s are above 6.00.

Coach J.D. Arteaga and pitching coach Laz Gutierrez anticipated this issue coming into the season, and they will need to sort it out to have consistent success in ACC play.

One positive for the pitching depth was Wednesday night’s return of Brian Walters. Walters looked electric on the hill for his one inning against Stonehill, quickly logging three strikeouts. He could pump the gas up as high as 96 mph, making the Stonehill batters look silly. Adding a piece like Walters to the pen will be huge for Miami, who is desperate for bullpen depth.

Another negative for the Canes in non-conference play would be offensive inconsistency outside Cuvet and Torres. The UM offense has shown flashes of what everyone knows they can do, scoring over 15 runs in three games this season. Unfortunately, the bats are not producing on the same level night in and night out.

In games against NJIT, LIU, UCF, and even Stonehill, the offense has had major scoring droughts against pitching at lower levels than what it will see in conference play. Guys expected to play significant roles in the offense, like Blake Cyr, Lucas Costello, and Lorenzo Carrier, are all off to dreadful starts and will have to turn things around for the Canes to see offensive success.

The Hurricanes will host the red-hot No. 13 Virginia Cavaliers (12-1) in a three-game set to kick off ACC play. Game one is set for a 7 p.m. start time, with Ziehl likely on the mound for Miami at Mark Light Field on Friday night.