Miami Faces FAU Badly in Need of Win

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Miami Hurricanes will go into their midweek game badly in need of a win.

Last week, they were looking to rebound from a series loss to Virginia Tech by getting a win over Stetson. This week they will be looking for a win over Florida Atlantic to help wash the taste of a sweep at the hands of Florida State out of their mouths.

The Owls of FAU might be just what the doctor ordered to get the Hurricanes back to playing well. The Owls aren't a bad team. On the contrary, they are leading the Sun Belt Conference, a good baseball conference, by three full games. But the Hurricanes have had great success against them this season, logging two wins over their in-state foes.

Getting the third win of the season against Florida Atlantic won't be easy.

That is in no small part due to the pitcher UM will face, redshirt sophomore righty Kevin Alexander. Coming into Tuesday's tilt, Alexander will sport a 4-0 record with a 2.01 ERA. He has struck out 24 and only issued six walks in his 31.1 innings.

Behind Alexander, expect to see freshman lefty Austin Gomber. Gomber, a weekend starter, didn't get to pitch this past weekend thanks to poor weather in FAU's series against Arkansas State. Surely FAU's coaching staff would like to get him some innings before next weekend.

Things wouldn't get much easier with Gomber on the mound. He has a 3.15 ERA and has struck out 43 hitters in 40 innings. Batters have only managed to hit a paltry .229 off of him.

If the Owls are protecting a lead late in the game, or even if they're not, look for junior closer R.J. Alvarez to make an appearance. Alvarez has a microscopic 0.61 ERA, seven saves and a 38/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 29.2 innings pitched.

Offensively, the Owls are led by their senior leader, Mike Albaladejo. He is hitting .364, has an on-base percentage of .451 and has driven in 23 runs.

FAU is much more than just one hitter, though. Kyle Newton (.314, 5, 26), Corey Keller (.308, 6, 23), Mike Spano (.303, 3, 17), Mark Nelson (.300, 6, 36) and Alex Hudak (.300, 4, 17) all swing the bat very well.

That's a tough lineup, but if he pitches like he has in the past few weeks, Miami's midweek starter, Javi Salas, will be more than up to the task.

Salas is 4-2 on the season with a 2.76 ERA and he has been even better than those numbers would indicate since taking over the midweek starter role.

On offense, the Hurricanes just have to find a way to play fundamental baseball and scratch some runs across. Seven-run innings like the one they got against FSU on Sunday aren't going to happen all that often with their lineup, particularly while Peter O'Brien is out.

If they find a way to work some counts, take some walks and put together solid at-bats, I think Miami finds a way to score enough to come away with a win.

If they give away outs and have an overly aggressive approach, though, I fear that Miami's skid will continue.

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