Morris Upbeat Despite FSU Results

Before leaving for Tallahassee to face the second-ranked Florida State Seminoles, Miami baseball coach Jim Morris was adamant that the three games against the Seminoles could serve as an indication of where the Hurricanes where headed.

But after losing two of three to the Seminoles for the second consecutive weekend, Morris said that the Hurricanes are still in ‘good shape' in regards to making the NCAA Regionals and that he has not lost confidence in the team despite it's most recent performance.

The Hurricanes (29-11), which dropped two of three to the Seminoles at Mark Light Field Apr. 25-27, dropped the first and final games of the series at FSU to insure a losing record against the Seminoles for the second consecutive season. Miami was shutout twice by a FSU pitching staff that ranked fourth nationally in ERA entering the series.

Still, Morris said that the outcome of the series isn't cause for concern. UM fell one spot to 17th in Baseball America's top-25 poll released Monday and according to Morris has a ‘pretty good' RPI (ratings power index) as of today. Morris said that the Hurricanes had an RPI of five last week.

"The whole series (against FSU) is not the end of the world. We're ranked 17th in the polls and our RPI is strong," said Morris. "If the season ended today we would be in a regional somewhere."

"J.D. (Cockroft) pitched a hell of a ballgame Friday we just couldn't get anything going offensively and we scored 14 runs off one of their best pitchers on Saturday. So I wouldn't say we were terrible. The guys played hard and competed all weekend. I certainly haven't lost faith in them."

Morris added that the Hurricanes probably would not host a regional as it stands right now, but that in no way was he worried about the team not playing past the regular season. Miami was near the .500 mark last season before finishing up strong to earn a bid to a regional in Gainesville.

Surprisingly, Morris said that the Hurricanes must win the rest of their games at home to secure a spot in the postseason. After starting out 18-3 at Mark Light Field, the Hurricanes have lost four of their last seven games at home. Miami has six regular season home games remaining including three against Pace College, starting Friday, May 2. The Hurricanes will host Savannah State May 16-18 before closing the regular season at Long Beach State.

"We have to win all of our remaining games at home, there's no question about it," said Morris. "Most baseball teams around the country win at home so that's going to be crucial for us down the stretch"

Despite being held scoreless in two games against the Seminoles, Morris points out that FSU has one of the best staffs in the country and that the Hurricanes are still hitting over .300, actually .311, as a team.

Morris is concerned with the Hurricanes shortage of starting pitching after ace Cockroft (6-2, 2.48 ERA) and sophomore left-hander Brandon Camardese (6-0, 4.52). Cockroft, who was elevated to ace after season-ending surgery sidelined Dan Touchet, gave the Hurricanes another strong outing in the opener against the Seminoles, pitching a complete and allowing a run on five hits.

Cockroft recorded five strikeouts. Camardese picked up the Hurricanes' lone victory of the series in the middle game, going 5.2 innings and allowing three runs on seven hits. Perez, filling in for Bongiovanni, took the loss in the series finale after lasting just 2.2 innings and allowing seven runs on six hits. Bongiovanni, out with an elbow injury, will be out for two additional weeks before returning to the rotation, according to Morris. In the mean time, Morris will had the ball to Perez and possibly Ryan Dixon as his fourth starter.

The Hurricanes are inexperienced at the bottom of the rotation. Perez was making his first career start as a Hurricane on Sunday, while right-hander Ryan Dixon (0-0, 7.01) has been ineffective in five starts this season. Dixon has allowed 20 earned runs and 27 hits in 25.2 innings. Dixon has issued more walks (22) than he has recorded strikeouts (20). Miami has a team ERA of 4.13

"I'm confident Vince will be back in two weeks we just want to make sure he's completely healed when he gets back," said Morris. "But we really need the No. 3 and No. 4 guy to come through. J. D. and Brandon pitched their hearts out for us against Florida State but we need some more consistency out of the our guys. If we don't get good pitching than we could have some problems."

Offensively, the Hurricanes are averaging 4.3 runs in their last 10 games, which may not seem like much. But again Morris stressed the fact that the Hurricanes have been up against a premier pitching rotation the last six games. Freshman shortstop Ryan Braun continues to lead the charge for UM with a team-leading .359 batting average, 10 home runs, 46 RBIs, 55 hits and a slugging percentage of .627. Braun was 3-for-10 with two RBIs and four runs scored against the Seminoles last weekend.

"Ryan's been fantastic and that might be an understatement," Morris said. "To do what that kid has done as a freshman is tremendous."

Bruan has had help from a few as his teammates, especially catcher Erick San Pedro and Adam Ricks. San Pedro, who hit .217 and drove in seven runs last season, is third on the team with a .336 batting average and has added three home runs and 25 RBIs. Ricks (49-for-141) is second at .348 and has three home runs and 37 RBIs. Freshman third baseman Gaby Sanchez is still hitting .320 (three home runs, 34 RBIs) despite a recent offensive slump. Junior first baseman Jim Burt (.316) is second on the team in home runs with nine and has 33 RBIs.

The Hurricanes have 12 regular season games remaining. The NCAA regionals start May 30.

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