Touchet, who entered the 2003 season as the team's staff ace, was forced to watch from the dugout as the Hurricanes made a postseason run that would eventually land them in the CWS. The right-hander was sidelined after having Tommy John surgery several weeks into the season, losing his spot atop the Hurricanes rotation and a chance to perform on college baseball's biggest stage.
"Missing out on Omaha my freshman year, and then to get injured last year was tough to deal with," says Touchet, who was 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in three starts in 2003 before the surgery. "I wish it wouldn't have happened. But I just have to stay positive. I've worked my tail off to try to get this team back to Omaha. There's nothing right now that drives me more than that."
Touchet, who started throwing in October, has looked sharp in several appearances this month in preparation for the upcoming season. The 6-2, 206-pounder has been able to use all of his pitches although he has struggled with the location at times.
"I know I'm not 100 percent yet, but I'm very confident I can help us win."
But finding a spot for Touchet could be a problem. Left-handers J. D. Cockroft and Brandon Camardese, along with right-hander Vince Bongiovanni, are expected to fill the top of the rotation. Sophomore Cesar Carillo, Chiqui Chirino and freshman Danny Gil have pitched well in training camp and will be difficult to unseat.
Touchet was selected out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds in the 31st round of the 2000 MLB amateur draft. But playing pro baseball isn't something Touchet is concerned with right now.
"I just want to get back to Omaha and have a big part in getting us there," said Touchet, who made one appearance during the Hurricanes' 2001 national title run.
A drop in the temperature was enough to silence the Hurricanes offense as they managed four runs and five hits in a six-inning intrasquad game on Wednesday at Mark Light Field. The Hurricanes left six runners on base in the first four innings, while nine pitchers combined for 11 strikeouts. Sophomore shortstop Ryan Braun was 2-for-4 with a double and triple. Paco Figueroa added a two-run homer off of left-hander Andrew Lane in the bottom of the fourth. Junior Brendan Katin had an RBI single to score Braun from third with one out in the top of the fifth. Freshman Jon Jay, a candidate to open the season in left field, was 0-for-3, including two walks. Pitchers Chris Perez, Marcelo Albir and Chiqui Chirino were all perfect in one-inning appearances. Braun is still not throwing the ball from his position. Morris said earlier this month that Braun had developed elbow tendinitis in the fall and was put on a monitored throwing program. Morris added that Braun would be ready to start the season-opener Feb. 13 against Florida.
Senior first baseman Jim Burt left in the top of the first after getting hit in the face with a Danny Gil pitch. Burt, who suffered a cut inside his mouth, was taken to the hospital where he required 7-8 stitches.
Touchet Hungry For Omaha
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