After an amazing regular season, the Hurricanes will enter the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament at 3 p.m. Wednesday needing to stretch their success to ensure being awarded a national seed for the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament that begins May 30.
After winning two of three from North Carolina, the Canes, who have won 27 of their past 30 games, actually dropped in the NCAA RPI from No. 10 last week to No. 12. Go figure. As much as the people who decipher those factors take into account how UM's opponents do, which, like in football, affects how they are viewed, keep in mind that Miami has a nation-leading 15-game road winning streak going. That is mighty impressive. So are four road sweeps -- just one fewer than the rest of the conference had combined going into this past weekend.
But regardless of being No. 10 or 12 in RPI, Miami (40-15, 24-6 ACC) needs to have a good showing at the ACC Tournament that begins today for the Georgia Tech (32-24, 14-16) vs Wake Forest (30-25, 15-15) and North Carolina (32-23m 15-15) vs NC State (32-22, 13-17) matchups that will determine the final two tournament teams.
UM will meet the winner of the Georgia Tech-Wake (3 p.m. Tuesday) game at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
The Canes lost two of three at Georgia Tech this season -- the last game a 3-2 score decided in 10 innings. Miami has not played Wake Forest this season.
"This tournament is huge,'' ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year Chris Diaz told me in a phone interview Monday. "It's the time of year when the best teams make it to Omaha. We're not just trying to win a couple of games here. We're trying to get a ring here, too.''
The Canes have not lost a game that Diaz has started since May of 2013 at this tournament. Diaz, a left-handed junior, is 9-0 with a 2.32 ERA.
Zack Collins earned ACC Freshman of the Year on Monday. Not bad for a guy who started the season 0 for 17 and 1 for 27 -- and ended up with a .285 average, with 46 RBI, eight home runs and a .520 slugging percentage.
"It's an awesome feeling,'' said Collins, from Pembroke Pines. "Obviously when you have that start... there are things going through your mind -- is it the college pitching or is it you? I just kept doing my best and knew it would come one day.
"It's almost like a fairytale ending to the regular season to get these awards when you start like I did. Now it's time to win the ACC tournament, get a national seed and go to Omaha and win a national championship.''
The ACC tourney, at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, N.C., uses a round-robin format, with the winner of Pool A (the No. 1 seed Canes, No. 4 Duke, No. 5 Clemson and winner of Georgia Tech-Wake) facing the winner of Pool B (No. 2 seed FSU, No. 3 UVA, No. 6 Maryand and the winner of Tuesday's UNC-NC State game) for the ACC championship at 1 p.m. Sunday.
On Monday, Memorial Day, the NCAA will name the 64-team field for the Division I Baseball Tournament -- including the top eight seeds (national seeds). The day before, the 16 sites that will host the first-round regionals will be announced. UM will almost surely be awarded a regional in Coral Gables.
National seeds are guaranteed to host the second round of the tournament -- the super regionals -- if the win the first round.
In addition to Collins' and Diaz's honors Monday, FSU's DJ Stewart (.362, 47 RBI, .588) won ACC Player of the Year.
Brian O'Connor of Virginia (43-11, 22-8) won ACC Coach of the Year -- over Jim Morrris, who brought the Hurricanes from 13-12 early this season to 40-15 and a regular-season ACC title. What Morris and Gino DiMare and J.D. Arteaga and weight-training-and-conditioning coach Brian Gabriel and assistant Rich Witten did to keep this team focused and finishing the way they have, to me is deserving of Coach of the Year for Morris.
ACC coaches vote for the honorees but are not allowed to vote for their own players (not sure about themselves).
Diaz was the only UM player to make the All-ACC first team, with outfielder Dale Carey (.295), starting pitcher Bryan Radziewski (7-2, 3.14) and closer Bryan Garcia earning second-team honors.
Collins, outfielder Willie Abreu (.299) and pitcher Andrew Suarez (5-3, 3.15) made third-team All-ACC.
An oversight, in my opinion, was leaving left fielder Tyler Palmer off one of the All-ACC teams. Palmer finished with a .304 average with 31 RBI (only behind Collins team-wise), a .441 slugging percentage (only behind Collins) and a team-leading 18 stolen bases (sixth best in ACC).
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN