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13 posts from June 2011

June 30, 2011

Jim Morris expects team MVP Zeke DeVoss to sign with Cubs this weekend

Jim Morris isn't feeling sorry for himself. But somebody ought to give him a hug. 

After losing for the third straight year to the rival Florida Gators in the NCAA Tournament, the last few weeks haven't been kind to Morris or his University of Miami baseball team.

Jim Morris The team's top two incoming recruits -- third baseman Corey Spangenberg and left-handed pitcher Henry Owens -- were taken in the first round of the MLB Draft. He doesn't expect to get either of them.

Seven of his underclassmen were drafted and six according to Morris (infielder Harold Martinez, outfielder Nathan Melendres, catcher David Villasuso and pitchers Danny Miranda, Sam Robinson and Travis Miller) have already signed with their respective pro teams. Now Morris said he expects the one that hasn't, center fielder and team MVP Zeke DeVoss, to sign with the Cubs when he flies to Chicago on Saturday and meets with team officials.

"We just haven't been very lucky the last two years when it comes to the pro draft," Morris said Thursday. "I was hoping Zeke would come back, but it's probably not going to happen.

"Ultimately, at the end of the day if the pro people want them, they're going to get them. The only thing I can do is offer them a scholarship and tell 'em I love 'em. They can offer them a scholarship, tell them they love 'em and give 'em a million bucks."

The Hurricanes, who finished 38-23 and ranked 24th in USA Today's final college baseball poll, will have to holes to fill over the next few weeks. Morris said that starts with replacing his three best relief pitchers, a center fielder, a first baseman and a catcher.

"The strength of our team is going to be the starting rotation -- we've got all those guys back," Morris said. "We've got Rony Rodriguez coming back, who was our leading home run guy and RBI guy. He made as much improvement as anybody on the team. But we have to improve offensively. Some guys will be good players. We just have to make some adjustments."

Morris is working on that.

Zeke DeVoss In the two weeks since hitting coach Joe Mercandante stepped down after four years on the job, Morris said he's spoken to people across all levels of baseball -- from super agent Scott Boras to general managers and scouting directors, who have all recommended someone for the job. Morris said he's narrowed his list down to five candidates and expects to make a hire in the next two weeks so that the new assistant coach can begin recruiting and evaluating players in the offseason.

"I've been absolutely bombarded with phone calls," Morris said. "I'm trying to make the right decisions based on a lot things. The No. 1 thing is to make our hitters better.

"Some of these guys don't want me to mention names. But I've had quite a few former players who played here and played for me in other places who have applied for a position. It's a hard thing for me. It's hard to talk to some of my former players and say 'No.' I've made some players mad at me over the years. In the end, I have to name one person. This is a very important call for me."

Miami, which hasn't been to the College World Series since 2008, finished 181st in batting average last season (.275), tied for 158th with 5.5 runs a game (333 total) and tied for 98th with 33 home runs. Three of the team's top four hitters won't be coming back. Last season, UM hit .295, averaged 7.5 runs a game (478 total) and hit 106 homers.

UM does have a few talented players who signed National Letters of Intent that could be coming in. Miami Columbus High left-hander Andrew Suarez (a 9th round pick), shortstop Jack Lopez (16th round pick) out of Deltona, right-hander Jace Herrera (36th round pick) out of Apopka and right-hander/outfielder Alex Fernandez Jr. (46th round pick). Morris said he also has verbal commitments from two junior college prospects and a transfer from another four-year program he can't talk about because they haven't signed National Letters of Intent.

But he's not counting on anybody coming until after midnight August 15th, the last day players can sign with the teams that drafted them.

"Last year we lost seven guys in the last 24 hours of that weekend," Morris said. "[Marlins first round pick] Christian Yelich signed at 11:59. At 11:58, we thought he was coming to school.

"I had a kid tell me once they weren't going to sign unless they got $500,000. He signed at the last minute for $75,000. So I never say this guy is coming or that guy is definitely coming. It's frustrating, but I try not to think about it. We just got have a little luck. We have to keep Jack Lopez. We need to keep [Andrew] Suarez. The guys who were drafted, we'll start with those guys and say we need to keep those guys. I'm not saying we will. But we need to."

> One player who definitely won't be coming back is freshman catcher Shane Rowland, who asked for his release. The former Tampa Catholic Aflac All-American started 41 games and hit .175 with one homer and 13 RBI. Morris said Rowland is probably headed to Junior College.

Krumpos ready to prep Canes hoop team for Larranaga's demanding scramble defense

Sammy Hernandez can't remember everything he and his George Mason teammates did before the 2006 season to prepare for Jim Larranaga's scramble defense and a run to the Final Four.

He just remembers it being extremely demanding -- and well worth it in the end.

Jim Larranaga "It was constant training," said Hernandez, now a director for a local YMCA in Miami. "Weightlifting, running at 5 a.m. and a lot of time pedaling on those stationary bikes. It was pretty tiring, the hardest I've ever worked in my life. But it was good. By the time the season came around, a guy like Jai Lewis, who was 6-8, 290, was running up and down the court like nothing. We got in shape and we got it done."

Jim Krupos, hired in May to be the Canes' new strength and conditioning coach for basketball, will be the man in charge of getting Larranaga's newest group ready for his physically demanding defense before the team starts practicing in October. He said today would be the first time he works with the entire team.

Aside from a lot of "intense running" and "circuit conditioning," the 34-year old former strength and conditioning coach at Arizona, Cal State-Fullerton and UNC-Charlotte (where he spent two years working with UM women's coach Katie Meier) said Larranaga wants the focus of his next six-week program to be on building upper body strength and confidence. 

"One thing we're real big on is upper body strength numbers, bench press numbers," Krumpos said. "We're adding a white board to the weight room where all the lifting numbers of each player will be on display. We want improvement, so we're also going to list what guys in the NBA combine did.

"You might think 'Can the bench press have a huge carry over to basketball?' If guys know they can lift 30 to 40 pounds more on the bench after six weeks, they'll be a lot more confident on the court. And when they know they're stronger than your opponent, it gives them a mental edge."

Krumpos said he's already tested most of his roster in flexibility, strength and mobility over the last few weeks (the only player he hasn't seen yet is incoming freshman Bishop Daniels) and has established personalized programs for each. But for the next weeks, the team will work together five days a week, lifting weights four days a week and extra conditioning three days a week after weights.

"This is a little more intense than what I was doing at Arizona," Krumpos said. "Coach [Lute] Olsen had his style for many years. Coach Larranaga has his. What we're trying to establish here is not only a new style of play, but a new way of working, a new mindset and approach. The players so far have been real receptive. A lot of them are eager to get back in it. I see a lot of leadership from a fairly hungry team."

Krumpos said junior center Reggie Johnson, who battled weight issues in the past and tested the NBA waters before returning to UM, has displayed a good attitude thus far.

"You never know with a guy that big what you're going to get until he goes in the weight room," Krumpos said. "Reggie has been training hard. He's one of the guys I put in the category to have a really good year. His body fat is really what we want to cut down. What we care about is how he's moving up and down the court. He's just a thick guy. We've been working a lot on diet, trying to educate him on not eating a bowl of pasta at midnight. I'd like to have him under 300 [pounds], somewhere where he isn't losing strength and power and he's able to get up and down the court. I'd say around 275 to 290.

"Coach Larranaga has had some big boys at George Mason. As long as they're rebounding good, getting up and down the court and getting back on defense, he'll be happy."

One big guy coming off injury is senior Julian Gamble, who had minor surgery on his ankle after the season. Krumpos said Gamble (6-9, 258) will be 100 percent for the start of the season.

"Julian is changing his body very dramatically," Krumpos said. "He's already made some nice changes. He's leaned out and gained some muscle."

Krumpos said the guy he's been most impressed with is forward Erik Swoope (6-6, 230).

"Genetically he's very gifted," Krumpos said. "He's not only as strong as he looks. He's able to handle anything you throw at him. He has more potential in his little finger than I do in my whole body."

Other summer workout standouts: "DeQuan Jones is very fast off the ground, which is what we care about more than a vertical," Krumpos said. "Tre McKinney-Jones has a lot of nice potential as well."

LARRANAGA FINDS A HOME: Coach Jim Larranaga told ESPN 950 AM radio in Washington, D.C. Tuesday he finally was able to find a place to live in South Florida last Friday. 

Now, his goal will be to find some 2012 recruits during the July evaluation period. UM has three seniors on its current roster and two potential early NBA entrants in Johnson and Durand Scott.

"We're a little bit behind the traditional programs in the ACC trying to get commitments from juniors," Larranaga told the radio station. "We're not in that position yet where we can start working on 2013. We're looking to get commitments in September, then go after the junior class and get way out in front with the recruiting situation with the top prospects."

According to Canesport.com, UM could find out soon if 2012 point guard Kareem Canty, rated 15th best at his position according to Rivals, is headed to Miami or Xavier. Canty, who plays at North Bridgton Academy in Maine, was originally recruited by Frank Haith. Larranaga has stayed on him. Canty is friends with UM guard Durand Scott and is originally from the Harlem area in New York.

Larannaga has said he'd like to focus UM's recruiting efforts in the state of Florida. He told ESPN 950 he believes he can stock his team with players that live within two to three hours of campus. 

June 29, 2011

Canes' Top 40 Player Countdown: No. 40-36

Hurricanes linebacker Sean Spence was rated No. 59 on Rivals.com's list of the 100 best college football players entering the 2011 season on Tuesday.

In honor of that distinction and because we could all sorely use some University of Miami football chatter during these dull summer months, I've brought back the player ranking system I used a couple years ago.

This one, unlike the last one, is much shorter and sweeter. And, I'm only ranking the Top 40 current Canes, based on what they've accomplished thus far and potential. I've also got a separate list, called The Fresh 15, where I'll rank players who have yet to do anything at UM but are expected to be contributors in 2011.

Enjoy. And remember, there is only a little more than five weeks left before camp begins...

A.J. Highsmith 40. DB A.J. Highsmith (6-0, 195, Jr.): The word on A.J. coming out of high school was that he would probably end up playing something other than quarterback at Miami. Two years and a coaching change later, that's finally the case. After winning the backup job to Jacory Harris as a freshman in 2009 -- and helping two other quarterbacks (Tayler Cook and Cannon Smith) head out the door -- Highsmith moved to defensive back this spring. The move isn't entirely foreign to him. Before he moved from Florida to Texas for high school and made the switch to quarterback, Highsmith played in the secondary growing up. How quickly he makes the transition back and becomes a regular contributor remains to be seen. But after the spring, he was third on the depth chart at strong safety. With as many holes as there are in the secondary, nobody would be surprised if Highsmith eventually finds his way on the field and contributes.

39. OG Joel Figueroa (6-6, 323, Sr.): It seems like a tradition at UM. A player battles through injury throughout their career and eventually they end up staying for six years. Figueroa, who played in UM's first four games last season before missing the rest of the season with back problems, becomes the latest Cane to extend their career beyond five years. Fig, as he's affectionately referred to by teammates, has made 15 starts in his career. Last year, we saw him make two starts at tackle, where it became painfully obvious he was much more suited for guard. Problem is now he's got players in front of him that are not only more talented in Brandon Washington, Harland Gunn and Brandon Linder, but they're also a lot healthier. If Fig can somehow fight his way back and become a contributor in the rotation, it will be a victory. If he doesn't, well, Miami is still in good shape at guard.

38. DE Andrew Smith (6-3, 250, Sr.): Regarded as a project with a lot of upside coming out of Coconut Creek Monarch in 2007, Smith has had a few brief moments of glory. He had two sacks against Pittsburgh last year and forced a fumble at Clemson. Other than serving his role as a third down rusher who hurries the quarterback here and then, Smith wasn't able to beat out his teammates last season to get on the field for more than 15-20 plays. He made seven starts as a sophomore -- zero as a junior. With freshman phenom Anthony Chickillo arriving this fall, it's conceivable Smith could lose even more snaps. My guess is he'll come up with a couple big plays here and there like he's done in the past and then we won't hear from him in 10 of the other 12 games.

37. DT Luther Robinson (6-3, 295, So.): Injuries last season eventually forced Robinson into a starting role as a redshirt freshman for two games against North Carolina and Maryland. He didn't do poorly. But he didn't exactly shine either, recording three tackles, including one for loss. Ranked by Rivals.com as the 18th best defensive tackle in the Class of 2009, Robinson is a player who should see a lot more playing time as the year goes on and injuries add up. With plenty of upperclassmen in front of him, ultimately, Robinson is the future at defensive tackle for the Canes along with Porter.

36. DT Curtis Porter (6-1, 300, So.): After arriving early at UM in January 2009, Porter played in eight of the Hurricanes final nine games and did a decent job holding his own as an injury fill-in. Then, last season, he started against Ohio State before being carted off the field with a knee injury. Porter worked his way back into a backup role this spring behind starter Micanor Regis. If he can stay healthy, Porter should become a valuable run-stopping sub for Regis and Forston, who will get the majority of work in the middle.

June 28, 2011

UM picks up verbals from LB Northrup, TE Holifield, 2012 class up to 19 commitments

Al Golden's first signing class at UM has grown over the summer from 16 to 19 players.

His 2012 class? That's already at 19 players and we're still a little more than seven months away from National Signing Day.

Reggie Northrup The Hurricanes picked up two more verbal, non-binding commitments on Tuesday. The first, 6-2, 215-pound outside linebacker Reggie Northrup from Jacksonville First Coast is considered the 26th best at his position according to ESPN. The other, Tallahassee Godby receiver/tight end Brandon Holifield (6-6, 216), just started playing football three months ago and isn't even the best pass catcher on his team.

Such has been the story this summer with Golden's second recruiting class. For every highly-regarded recruit he's landed a commitment from, there's another player recruiting analysts sort of scratch their heads at. Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services said he likes the players UM has offered and received commitments from, but thinks Golden and his staff are "taking a lot of kids they can wait on."

"I don't think they're doing a bad job, I just think they're taking a lot of kids that are going to need time to develop, not instant impact type guys," Fishbein said. "That's not necessarily a bad thing. But when you're losing as many guys as they're losing, you need a few that can play right away. The teams they're trying to catch aren't waiting for kids to develop. They're reloading."

Of the 19 commitments in UM's class, eight are four-star recruits (five are considered ESPN Top 150 recruits) and eight are three star recruits. ESPN ranks the Hurricanes as having the ninth-best overall recruiting class as of June 23rd.

ESPN recruiting insider Corey Long said while UM's 2012 class "isn't going to win the 2012 recruiting national championship, they're loading up on athletes -- and some of them are real good."

"I think in general some Miami fans are wondering what's going on," Long said. "But you look at some of the players they've gotten -- Reggie Northrup is a heck of a player. [Miami Norland running back] Duke Johnson is the best player in the state. [St. Thomas Aquinas defensive tackle] Jelani Hamilton is one of the top three defensive lineman in the state. [Austin, Tex. quarterback] Preston Dewey is a major steal. [South Miami cornerback] Amos Leggett has a hard time staying with schools, but is a talent. [Norland linebacker] Keith Brown has gotten huge. [Norland's] Erick Flowers is a good offensive lineman.

"It might not be the sexiest group of kids, but the guys they're recruiting and getting commitments from players they're seeing up close and have a plan for. They're doing their due diligence. If a coach sees a player and believes he can play at the level they want him to and the level they'll be facing, he'll take them. That's anywhere. Al Golden has his own level of evaluating talent. Every coach sees something different. They're inviting kids to camp, watching them and taking the ones that stand out. That's what they're supposed to do."

Long believes UM will end up signing more than 30 players in its next class. The local must-gets in his opinion for the Hurricanes? Miami Columbus and ESPN Top 150 player Deon Bush (considered the sixth best safety in the country) and either Homestead receiver Herb Waters or Miami Northwestern receiver Amari Cooper.

"Bush has to be their No. 1 recruiting target," Long said. "As for the receivers out there, I like Cooper the most. I've got him as the third best receiver in the state. Waters is good too. Either one of them will make their receiving class better. There is also a lot of local talent in 2013 with [University's] Jordan Cunningham and [Northeast's] Stacey Coley. So maybe they wait for one of those guys."

Both Long and Fishbein like Northrup.

"I saw him at the FSU Camp last week," Fishbein said of Northrup. "He's going to be a 235 pound linebacker, going to run down hill and be a good run stopper. I think he could be a starter in his second year, after playing on special teams his first year. He's a little stiff in pass coverage. He's athletic enough to play bigger, slower tight ends. But I think he's more of a downhill run stopper, kind of like a Darryl Sharpton."

Northrup, who had 108 tackles and seven sacks as a junior, will likely come in and play outside linebacker according to his father. He could also end up enrolling early in January.

"He's completed a lot of his requirements already," Northrup Sr. said. "I know he's taking his ACT again, the math portion because he wants to get a higher score. But ultimately what will determine if he goes early is if they take away wrestling in the Jacksonville area. He's a two-time state qualifier, placed third as a sophomore. If they cut wrestling, I'm sure he's going to want to go to college early."

As for Holifield, he's considered a gifted athlete with a lot of upside, but not a whole lot of football experience. He finished third at the state championships in the high jump and caught one pass in his spring game for a touchdown. After camping at UM recently, Holifield added a UM offer to a group that included FAU, Gardner-Webb and Samford. 

"He's on a team with Laith Harlow, a 6-5, 240-pound tight end who is headed to Oklahoma," Long said. "So I don't know how many opportunities [Holifield] is going to get to catch the ball. But he's definitely a talented athlete, not a bad guy to take a chance on. Miami coaches obviously saw something at their camp they really liked."

UM commitments (Ranked in order based on ESPN Player grades, e-ESPN 150)
WR Angelo Jean-Louis, Palm Beach Central, 6-0, 185 (e-No. 7 WR)
RB Duke Johnson, Miami Norland, 5-9, 175 (e-No. 10 ATH)
CB Amos Leggett, South Miami, 5-11, 175 (e-No. 8 CB)
QB Preston Dewey, St. Andrews, Austin, Tex., 6-2, 200 (e-No. 9 QB)
LB Raphael Kirby, Stephenson, Stone Mountain, Ga., 6-1, 215 (e-No. 11 OLB)
LB Reggie Northrup, Jacksonville First Coast, 6-2, 215 (No. 26 OLB)
LB Keith Brown, Miami Norland, 6-1, 215 (No. 27 OLB)
DE Jelani Hamilton, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, 6-4, 245 (No. 35 DE)
DT Trenton Taylor, Lakeland Lake Gibson, 6-3, 245 (No. 26 DT)
WR Jontavious Carter, Crisp County, Cordele, Ga., 6-3, 192 (No. 40 WR)
QB Gray Crow, Clearwater Countryside, 6-3, 220 (No. 34 QB)
OT Ereck Flowers, Miami Norland, 6-6, 288 (No. 61 OT)
DE Dwayne Hoilett, Vero Beach, 6-3, 212 (No. 64 DE)
DE Jake O'Donnell, Central Bucks East, Doylestown, Penn. 6-5, 235 (No. 83 DE)
CB Vernon Davis, Miami Coral Reef, 5-9, 170 (No. 47 CB)
CB Larry Hope, Hialeah American, 5-10, 160 (No. 50 CB)
QB David Thompson, Miami Westminster Christian, 6-1, 195 (No. 89 QB)
WR D'Mauri Jones, Leesburg, 6-3, 185 (Unranked)
TE Brandon Holifield, Tallahassee Godby, 6-6, 216 (Unranked)

June 12, 2011

Canes land another commitment from Al Golden's camp: Coral Reef CB Vernon Davis

Coral Reef cornerback Vernon Davis went to Al Golden's football camp Saturday hoping to impress Hurricanes coaches. He earned MVP honors and a scholarship offer.

Vernon Davis Sunday morning, he went back to UM with his mother so she could check it out. "She loved it," Davis said. 

So Davis told Golden Sunday to save him a scholarship for the 2012 signing class, making the 5-10, 170-pound junior UM's 14th non-binding oral commitment -- and the fourth to high school player to pledge to UM after attending Golden's camp.

"Having that experience at the camp and making that connection to Coach Golden, Coach Paul Williams was what did it for me," Davis said. "Once my mom was able to see it too, it locked it up for me. She saw everybody has my back. That's all you want."

Davis chose UM over offers from 15 other schools. Among them: West Virginia, Cincinnati, Duke, FIU, Ball State and Boston College.

Davis said he has a 2.7 GPA and scored a 17 on his ACT. He said he's qualified to get into UM.

June 10, 2011

Canes having recruiting success with coach Al Golden's summer camps

Larry Hope didn't know what to expect when he went to Al Golden's football camp on May 29.

Larry Hope The 5-11, 170-pound cornerback from American High in Miami had heard the University of Miami's new football coach had a reputation for working his players hard. But how hard could a one day summer camp really be? Hope, who has 15 offers (Nebraska, Louisville, West Virginia and Wisconsin among them), found out it was more demanding than any other camp he'd been to. 

"Man, I was real tired afterward," Hope said. "I've been to Duke's camp, the Nike SPARQ camps, speed camps, 7-on-7 Badger camps, the National Underclassman, I don't think I worked as hard as I did at UM.

"It was good too because it was different. This was the first camp where you started playing on the other side of the ball. Offensive guys played defense. Defensive guys played offense. I guess they wanted to see your coordination, your athleticism and overall ability. Then, we played defense, did one-on-one, did a bunch of drills. We worked hard, tested ourselves. We found out how we performed when we are tired and if we could overcome the tiredness. 

"I'm glad I went to the camp. I learned Coach Golden is a good guy. He's trying to get everything organized, trying to get it back to the old UM. He's more accessible to everybody than any other coach I've been around. He teaches DBs, offensive line, receivers. He doesn't just teach one thing. It's good to know your coach just isn't some coordinator, but somebody who really knows football."

Hope came away impressed and so did Golden, who offered Hope a scholarship before he left the camp. A few days later, Hope said he called Golden back and told him he was committing. Hope said they've spoken everyday since, relaying messages to each other on Facebook. 

"Like Coach Golden said for $55, I got a $250,000 scholarship," Hope said. "That's a pretty sweet deal."

Hope hasn't been the only high school player to commit to the Hurricanes after attending the coach's camp. UM landed ESPN Top 150 quarterback Preston Dewey (Austin, Tex.) and most recently 6-5, 235-pound defensive end Jake O'Donnell (Doylestown, Penn.) after they camped.

The Hurricanes now have 13 commitments as part of their 2012 signing class. More could be on the way. Golden has four more camps scheduled: Saturday, Sunday and June 18 and June 15.

Golden announced on twitter that he's expected former Hurricanes Bryant McKinnie, Brett Romberg and Andre Johnson to be at the camp this weekend. Hope said former receiver Leonard Hankerson and a whole host of current Hurricanes were at his camp on May 29.

"It's definitely good to see the former players and current players out there," Hope said. "It makes it feel like a real family."

It's always easy to take shots at what Randy Shannon did when he ran the show at UM. But in this case, it's obvious Golden has made some smart decisions and changes to the camp structure at UM. For starters, his camps are cheaper ($55) and they're spread out over various weekends.

Randy Shannon's football camp, which cost $130 for one-day participants and $390 for overnight campers, took place over just one weekend in June.

According to UM's sports information department, over 600 middle and high school athletes have participated in Golden's first two camps. For more information on the camps, visit www.algolden.com.

June 07, 2011

Martinez, DeVoss taken on Day 2 of MLB Draft

Harold Martinez didn't have the type of season many expected him to -- even himself.

Harold Martinez After leading the ACC in home runs with 21 as a sophomore and leading the Canes with 69 RBI, he hit just three home runs and drove in 38 runs as a junior. It wasn't the kind of output scouts were hoping to see -- regardless of the new aluminum bats being used in college baseball. 

But early Tuesday afternoon, as he sat in his house and followed the draft online, his biggest dream came true. With the last pick in the second round, 90th overall, the Philadelphia Phillies took Martinez. And after living out one dream for the last three years at Miami, Martinez is almost certain he's ready to go pro.

"There’s a lot left [at UM], but I’m pretty sure I’m going to go ahead and take this opportunity," said Martinez, who spoke with Miami Herald reporter Adam Beasley. "I had two dreams in my life, UM and play in the major leagues. I’ve already achieved one of those goals. It’s time to chase the other."

Martinez's agent/advisor, Mike Maulini, said he's never had to work harder for one of his players than he had to with Martinez. Convincing teams his rough junior season at UM was simply a hiccup on the way to a great career wasn't an easy sell.

"In my 13 years of being an agent this is on top of the list as far as working hard for a player," Maulini said. "He is an amazing young man and I am extremely happy for him and his family."

Martinez said he has a lot to improve on moving forward. But he's looking forward to it. "I knew I was going to get drafted no matter what, and I’d have chance to chase my dream," Martinez said. "You're always scared you’re not going to go real high because I didn’t have the year I thought I would. But I love baseball and I knew I’d be drafted by someone."

Teammate Zeke DeVoss didn't go long after Martinez. He was taken eight picks later by the Chicago Cubs, 98th overall and early in the third round. DeVoss, who led UM with a .340 batting average and the ACC with 32 stolen bases, was a little surprised he went so early.

"“I was actually at home [in Miami], laying in bed," DeVoss said. "I wasn’t really expecting it. I had the draft on my computer and heard my name. It is a tremendous blessing. To get drafted by such a great club like the Chicago Cubs, I’m really excited.”

DeVoss is only a sophomore, but because his 21st birthday on July 17 falls before the signing cut-off he was eligible for this year's draft. So will he also be leaving UM behind?

"The Cubs are going to be calling back in the next couple of days to discuss things," DeVoss said. "I don’t intend on having it be something that lasts all summer. I’ll decide in the next week or two. At this point, it’s really 50-50. I would like to sign, but I wouldn’t have any problem with coming back next year. This is a great place. It’s great to play under Coach Morris. To get a degree from UM, I’m sure anybody in the world would love to do that."

The Cardinals plucked junior left-handed closer Danny Miranda with the 260th pick in the eight round. Miranda went 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA and 15 saves this past season.

Two UM signees were taken on the first day of the draft -- and likely will end up going pro.

Cory Spangenberg, the top position player UM signed, was taken 10th overall by the Padres out of Indian River Community College.

Left-handed pitcher Henry Owens, a lanky 6-foot-7 hurler from one Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif., was taken 36th overall -- third in the compensatory round -- by the Boston Red Sox.

On Tuesday, Miami Columbus pitcher Andy Suarez, a left-hander who also signed with UM, was taken in the ninth round by the Blue Jays, 289th overall. Maulini, who serves as Suarez's advisor, said he expects the Blue Jays to make a hard run at signing Suarez.

June 05, 2011

Game over! Gators beat Canes 11-4 to win regional. UM season ends.

  That's it folks. It's all over for the Miami Hurricanes.

The Gators ended UM's baseball season for the third consecutive year, this time to take the Gainesville regional title with an 11-4 victory.

It was actually almost all over before the first out. UF scored three runs with no outs on a home run by Preston Tucker that also scored Nolan Fontana (single) and Bryson Smith (walk) in the first inning.

The Gators (48-16) plunged the dagger the deepest in the third inning, when they scored eight runs on seven hits and one error. They now will host a super regional and face Mississippi State next weekend in Gainesville.

The Canes end their season at 38-23.

UM has 10 draft-eligible players, of which as many as nine could be drafted in the MLB Draft that begins Monday. All four UM starting pitchers are returning and should make up an exceptionally strong staff next year. E.J. Encinosa, who started today and got shelled for seven runs on four hits and two walks in 2.1 innings, is expected to replace Danny Miranda as UM's closer.

The Gators have now defeated UM in their last eight meetings and in 11 of their last 12 games.

Kudos to UF right fielder Preston Tucker, who earned the regional's Most Outstanding Player by going 9 for 20, with three home runs and 11 RBI in the regional.

"He's an outstanding player, goodness gracious,'' said UM coach Jim Morris of Tucker.

Said Tucker: "I'm seeing the ball well right now. Hopefully I can carry it over to next weekend. Having guys on base makes me more confident at the plate.''

 The Canes had four players make the Gainesville Regional All-Tournament Team: Zeke DeVoss at second base, Brad Fieger at third base, Dale Carey in the outfield and Steven Ewing on the mound.

  UM first baseman Harold Martinez missed the final game with a hurt foot, Morris said.

For those counting, UM has committed 18 errors in its past seven games against the Gators.

--SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

UM mounts great comeback to face Gators NOW! (already down 11-4 though)

NOTE: UM already is down 11-4 after home run by Preston Tucker in top of first inning of second game, and eight runs in third inning. Bring on the mercy rule. Note: Canes just scored in bottom of seventh on home run by Chantz Mack and got three more in the eighth.

     GAINESVILLE -- With their hopes of staying alive dwindling by the minute, the Miami Hurricanes scored six runs in the final two innings Sunday afternoon to stage a dramatic comeback and defeat Jacksonville 6-3 for a chance to play the Florida Gators.

     The Gators (47-16), ranked No. 1 in the nation by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball, have two opportunities to win one game for the Gainesville NCAA regional title. If UM (38-22) should win the 4:45 p.m. Sunday game, then the two teams would play a winner-take-all game at 7 p.m. Monday. The winner of that game would advance to the super regional round of the tournament.

     UM closer Daniel Miranda came in to relieve Sam Robinson with two outs and bases loaded for Jacksonville in the bottom of the ninth. It took Miranda one pitch to get Esterlin Perozo to fly out to Dale Carey and end the game.

    The game, at McKethan Stadium, lasted 3 hours 48 minutes. It was 98 degrees.

      “I want to congratulate Jacksonville on an outstanding year,’’ UM coach Jim Morris said between games. “Very happy to squeeze out a win there, no question. We didn’t do much right in the first seven innings. Thankfully we coaxed some runs in the end. Rony Rodriguez got it going for us, which was big, with the home run. We scratched away a few runs and our pitching got it done in the end.’’

     UM scored three of its four runs in the eighth with two outs.

     Rodriguez led off the eighth by blasting a home run to left field to cut the deficit to 3-1. Chantz Mack, pinch-hitting for Harold Martinez, watched a third strike for the first out in that inning. Brad Fieger kept hopes alive with a walk, and advanced to second on a single to left by Stephen Perez, at which point Jacksonville changed pitchers.

     Chris Kaminski entered the game to face Dale Carey, and got him to hit into a fielder’s choice for the force out at third, leaving Perez on second and Carey on first.  Chris Palaez then ripped an RBI-single to right, scoring Perez to make it 3-2. With Carey on third, Kaminski threw a wild pitch to score Carey and tie it up at 3-3.

    Kaminski was replaced by right-handed reliever Adam Maxon after walking Shane Rowland. Maxon promptly hit Zeke DeVoss to load the bases, then walked Nathan Melendres to put Canes ahead 4-3.

      In the ninth, with two outs after Stephen Perez advanced Brad Fieger with a sacrifice bunt, Carey’s single to left scored Fieger to make it 5-3. Another Palaez RBI scored Carey.

    Carey had another phenomenal day in right field, making his second spectacular catch of the tournament by sprinting to his right and diving across the turf for the second out of the eighth.

    Miami has beaten the Dolphins 10 consecutive games.

     “Tough one to lose,’’ said Jacksonville coach Terry Alexander, whose Dolphins finished their season at 37-24. “We kind of lost control in the eighth. They certainly are a good ballclub. Give them an opening or crack and they are going to come flying through.’’

    --SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

Deja Vu. Canes collapse. But they still have another chance today. Game day!

GAINESVILLE -- The Hurricanes collapsed again against the Gators.

It was an amazing game to watch in person. The tension was incredibly thick and the atmosphere was humming with boisterous Gators fans -- and the swatch of loyal Canes baseball fans, who really are great fans.

But if you know the recent history of Canes baseball against the Gators, you couldn't help but get that weird feeling that something might go wrong for the Canes in the ninth inning. It did, of course. Error. Balk. Walk. Wild pitch. Another walk. Walk-off single.

I know how UM coach Jim Morris is adamant about using his bullpen in his specific formula, but I was shocked when he brought in Travis Miller to replace Sam Robinson after the first UF batter looked at a strikeout pitch to open the ninth. Robinson was nothing less than suburb yesterday. He retired all seven batters he faced, striking out three of them. Just two more outs... Just two.

Why did you do it, Coach Morris?

“It was righty-righty with Miller [vs. Daniel Pigott],’’ Morris said. “That’s what we always do in the bullpen, and I didn’t want to overextend Robinson where he couldn’t pitch [Sunday]. Miller is used to getting right-handed hitters out.’’

  The thing is, if you beat Florida, then Sunday becomes that much easier for the Canes and that much harder for the Gators. Now UM has to win two games today  -- including the second one against Florida -- to even have a chance to play Florida again Monday for the regional title.

Also, I did ask Morris about the top of the ninth, when Nathan Melendres opened with a double. "Were you thinking at all of maybe bunting him to third?''

Morris: "I considered it. But [next batter Rony Rodriguez] is our leading RBI guy, our leading home run guy and we got a guy in scoring position and you've got three shots of getting in a run right there to go ahead. I was hoping he would move him over. He swung at the first pitch. He got out in front and hit a ground ball to short and didn't get him over. But basically we had our 3-4-5 hitters right there with a chance to put us ahead in the ninth inning. If that would have happened we would have brought Miranda in the ninth inning to start the inning.''

My thinking is you get Melendres to third with a sac, which UM has been very good at lately. Now a fly ball to the outfield or a hit gets him in. But I do think that the biggest blunder was taking out Sam when he did. Sometimes you have to throw away your "always" mentality and do what makes sense in a situation.

"I love pressure,'' Sam said after the game. "I love pitching in pressure situations, so coming in the seventh inning with the score tied, I love those situations.''

OK, fans. Have to get to the ballpark now for what could prove to be a very long day. Or at least what UM fans hope will be a long day.

You have to like that B-Rad is pitching for the Canes against Jax, and E.J. Encinosa -- who only gave up one run against Florida earlier this year in a 1-0 loss at UF (one-hitter) -- will throw against UF if UM beats Jacksonville.

You also have to wonder if the Canes can get through the Gators without making errors.

Also, before I forget, and this was in my original story until the game got so crazy that it had to be cut out to fit length, right fielder Dale Carey is an amazing outfielder. The acrobatic, unbelievably dramatic catch he made in the bottom of the first inning to save a potential run was one of the best I've seen. Even the rabid Gators fans applauded Carey after that one, and it appeared that Carey tipped his hat a bit.

The Gators made some amazing defensive plays, too, honestly. They are an excellent baseball team.

Ready for the next one?

--SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

June 03, 2011

Canes prevail, set to face No. 2 national seed Gators at 4 p.m. Saturday

GAINESVILLE -- The Hurricanes' baseball team defeated Jacksonville 7-2 today in the NCAA Gainesville regional, but until the eighth, it was anyone's game.

UM (37-21) sent 10 batters to the plate in the eighth inning, scoring four runs on three hits. Four of their seven runs today were unearned, thanks to three errors by Jacksonville. UM is definitely underwhelming in the hitting department, but has been stellar on the mound with a bunch of outstanding young arms.

Kudos to UM left-handed sophomore starter Steven Ewing, who put in a heck of a performance today. He gave up only one hit in six innings, and allowed one run on a sacrifice fly. He was UM's No. 4 midweek guy all season, and raised his record to 8-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.58.

Speaking of ERAs, the starter who has the Canes' lowest ERA -- right-handed sophomore Eric Whaley (7-5, 2.55) -- will start tomorrow against Florida (46-16). Whaley lost to the Gators March 6, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits in 5.1 innings. He gave up four doubles and a home run that day.

But Whaley, who throws a fastball, changeup and slider, has had a terrific season. He has started 15 games, and opponents are hitting .221 against him. He has 79 Ks. Whaley's problem is the rest of his teammates. They haven't hit when he's pitching.

"It happens, I guess,'' he told me earlier this week. "I'm pitching against good pitchers. I mean, at the beginning of the year we hit a lot when I was pitching but now there hasn't been as many runs. But that's just because they're going against good pitchers, too. You can't blame it all on [the Hurricanes].''

Whaley said this week that his "arm will be fresh for sure'' in the regional. He pitched two solid innings against Virginia in the ACC Tournament, allowing no runs and three hits before the rain came and he was taken out for good.

The Gators will pitch right-handed ace Hudson Randall (9-3, 2.25).

If Whaley can prevail, that would save UM's ace, Bryan Radziewski (9-2, 3.30) and E.J. Encinosa (5-5, 2.90 with a memorable performance against UF on March 5, when he allowed one run on five hits in 7 innings, but got the loss because UM was one-hit) for key games this weekend.

Shoutouts are in order for second baseman Zeke DeVoss, catcher Corey Janson and left fielder Rony Rodriguez. DeVoss has now reached base safely in 14 of 18 plate appearances this postseason for a .692 postseason average. The second baseman has reached base as the leadoff hitter in five consecutive games.

Rodriguez doubled in one run today and hit into a fielder's choice for another RBI.

And freshman Janson came through big-time today with his first career home run -- to right field. Turns out Janson missed several weeks this season after undergoing emergency surgery Feb. 2 for a perforated ulcer. He has only played in eight games and had two hits coming into today's game.

"Since then it’s been a process of coming back to full strength and I’m finally feeling good,'' Janson said. "It felt great to first of all contribute to the win and help the team out. After my first at-bat I kind of pulled off the ball a little bit and [assistant coach] Roger [Tomas] came over to me and he reminded me to let the ball get deep and stay on it and he gave me an outside fastball and I did just that. I stayed on it and the ball carried well and it was a home run."

Corey, by the way, has a great brain. Not only was he an A student at Flanagan High (he is from Weston), he has a 3.97 grade point average at UM and is on a full academic scholarship.

UM coach Jim Morris seemed surprised that he didn't have a 4.0 gpa.

"I got an A-minus in business law,'' Janson said to Morris as they left the postgame news conference.

Stay tuned to tomorrow's big game. The Gators obliterated Manhattan 17-3 today. They scored 16 runs in the first three innings. UM has lost 9 of its past 10 games against UF -- and has been eliminated by the Gators in the NCAA tourney the past two years.

--SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

 

Preston Dewey, who plays for former Heisman winner Ty Detmer, latest QB to commit to Canes (w/video)

The 2012 quarterback competition at the University of Miami got a little more interesting Friday.

Preston Dewey Preston Dewey, a 6-3, 205-pound senior-to-be from Austin, Texas, became the third (and potentially last) quarterback to join the the Hurricanes' upcoming signing class when he called Hurricanes coaches to let them know he was committing to the school.

Dewey, who is coached in high school by former Heisman winner Ty Detmer, participated in a camp at UM over the weekend and shined at the TCU Elite 11 competition earlier in the spring. He joins Gray Crow and David Thompson as quarterbacks headed to the program. Both Dewey and Crow are expected to enroll in January.

The 11th overall commitment for the Hurricanes class of 2012, Dewey threw for over 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

June 01, 2011

UM baseball to start lefty soph. Steven Ewing against Jacksonville

     University of Miami usual midweek pitcher Steven Ewing was named the starter Wednesday by coach Jim Morris for the Hurricanes’ opening game against Jacksonville in the Gainesville Regional that begins at noon Friday.

     "Nothing different than what we've done in the past,'' Morris told me a couple hours ago. "We try to look at the pitchers that will match up best against the different teams. The real deal is you're going up there to win the regionals and we feel this gives us the best opportunity.''

       Ewing, a 6-2, 223-pound left-handed sophomore from Orlando, is 7-2 with a 2.77 earned run average – second best among UM’s starting rotation. He throws a fastball, curve, slider and changeup, and used to rely on his slider as his out pitch until "he lost the feel for it'' against FAU. "I think I'm starting to find it again, so hopefully it will be back.''

      Ewing’s only two losses this season came against Florida Atlantic University. He has 12 appearances and started 11 games. Opponents are hitting .213 against him. If you recall, Ewing was the one put in to replace Eric Whaley after a 7 1/2-hour rain delay took Whaley out of contention against Virginia. Ewing allowed one run on two hits in three innings.

      The Hurricanes’ youthful pitching rotation this season led with ace freshman Bryan Radziewski (9-2, 3.30), followed by sophomore Eric Whaley (7-5, 2.55), sophomore E.J. Encinosa (5-5, 2.90) and Ewing.

    Jacksonville will start its ace, left-handed senior Matthew Tomshaw, who is 8-3 with a 3.78 ERA. Opponents are hitting .291 against him.

      Morris hasn’t indicated who will start in the second game of the double-elimination tournament, which also features No. 2 national seed Florida and No. 4 regional seed Manhattan College. He did, however, give a couple options.

      "I would think that the second game would be B-Rad or Whaley, one of the two. We’re going to make a decision after we get there."

     The Hurricanes are 36-21. Jacksonville, which defeated the Gators this month 11-2 in a midweek game, is 36-22.

    --SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN