San Pedro Taking Control

Erick San Pedro was headed to the place he always dreamed about as a kid growing up in Miami. Done with a stellar high school career at Monsignor Edward Pace that netted him a spot on the All-Dade team as a senior, San Pedro was now setting his sights on joining one of the premier college baseball programs in the country. It just happened to be just a short car ride away.

Having played at every little league level imaginable in Miami he didn't give much thought to taking his equipment bag and leaving town. San Pedro had no ambition of going elsewhere and making a name for himself. All San Pedro was looking for was a chance to build on a tradition at the University of Miami which he had seen unfold right before his very eyes- in his own backyard.

"There was little doubt in my mind that this was where I wanted to play," says the sophomore catcher who will enter the Hurricanes' final regular season series with a .304 batting average, three home runs and 32 RBI. "It wasn't a bad deal, I could stay home and play for the best college baseball program in the country."

Everything seemed right. San Pedro rode a wave of confidence into his UM debut, a 2-for-3 performance in a victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers. But things fell apart shortly after. Despite starting in 16 of 24 games as a freshman, 11 of which the Hurricanes won, San Pedro struggled to make adjustments offensively and finished the regular season with a .217 batting average. UM coach Jim Morris was so down on San Pedro he did not start a single game in the postseason.

"I guess everything was different for me," says San Pedro. "I struggled offensively but I think I'm better because of it."

After finished the 2002 season with just seven RBI, San Pedro started a rigorous off-season training program and spent long hours in the batting cage. San Pedro's goal was to get stronger and improve his discipline at the plate. Bingo!

Despite going 1-for-8 against Savannah State this past weekend, San Pedro is beginning to develop a comfort zone offensively that could provide the Hurricanes with some production as they head towards the NCAA Tournament, starting later this month. San Pedro has 41 hits, 30 runs scored and a .449 slugging percentage.

"I think the off-season really helped me focus on being more selective," San Pedro says. "I don't have to hit every pitch out of the park. Now, I understand that no matter what you get three strikes in every at-bat. I'm more relaxed."

While San Pedro says that he is still working on being more consistent with his bat, this glove remains as steady as ever. San Pedro has made just four errors in 41 games and is widely recognized as a good influence by the Hurricanes pitchers.

"I take a lot of pride in my defense," says San Pedro. "I think I've held up pretty good."

REGULAR SEASON RAP: The Hurricanes (37-13-1) concluded their regular season home schedule with a four-game sweep against Savannah State at Mark Light Field. Freshman shortstop Ryan Braun was 6-for-13 with eight RBI and four runs scored as the Hurricanes outscored the Tigers 40-16 in the series. Braun improved his team-leading batting average to .367. Braun also ranks first in home runs (14), runs batted in (63) and slugging percentage (.668). Braun also has 12 doubles.

UM right-hander Alex Perez (2-2, 5.94 ERA), who missed significant time earlier this season with a bone spur in his right elbow, earned his second victory in three starts in the series finale as he continues to push to stay in the rotation. Perez pitched a career-high eight innings, allowing three runs and seven hits while recording five strikeouts. In 36 1/3 innings pitched this season, Perez has allowed 27 runs (24 earned) and 41 hits, while recording 18 strikeouts.

The Hurricanes' pitching staff received another lift with the return to the rotation of sophomore right-hander Vince Bongiovanni. Bongiovanni (6-3) picked up the victory in the second game of a doubleheader against the Tigers in which he pitched four innings and allowed two runs and four hits. Bongiovanni recorded nine strikeouts.

Miami, which has won nine of their last 10 games, closed the regular season at Mark Light Field with a record of 27-7-1. The Hurricanes will finished the regular season with a three game series at Long Beach State (37-16), starting Thursday, May 22. Long Beach State's regular pitching rotation of Jared Weaver (12-3, 2.11), Abe Alvarez (10-0, 2.48) and Cesar Ramos (5-4, 2.95) has combined for 27 victories this season.

The Dirtbags, fresh off winning the Big West Conference for the first time since 1988, are 21-8 at home.

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