Canes Begin Fall Preparations

There is a strange sound already coming out of Mark Light stadium- aluminum bats meeting baseballs. The calendar may only indicate that its only November, but the University of Miami baseball team has unzipped some duffle bags and started fall workouts as of this afternoon. The defending national champions will take part in 15 daily sessions that will run through Thursday, Nov. 15.

Several walk-ons will also participate in hopes of making the Miami squad that will be around come February. The Hurricanes were 53-12 last season, including a 17-game win streak to close out the campaign.

Gone from last year's squad: Greg Lovelady, Tom Farmer, Kevin Brown, Charlton Jimerson, Dan Smith, Alex Prendes and Kris Clute. But the Hurricanes do return 19 players and will count on one of the nation's premier freshmen classes as well.

Among those returning for the Hurricanes are: All-American shortstop javy Rodriguez, catcher Danny Matienzo, third baseman Kevin Howard, pitcher Kiki Bengochea and closer George Huguet. The returning players include nine position players and 10 pitchers.

UM head coach Jim Morris, Collegiate Baseball and American Baseball Coaches Association 2001 coach of the year, can't wait to get started.

"I'm looking forward to practice," Morris said. "We have a lot of returning veterans along with a nice group of freshmen. I'm excited to see how they (freshmen) will fare against our experienced players."

The Hurricanes will be putting in a lot of work in fundamentals in the next couple of weeks and Morris wants to start getting a grasp of his future lineup. The Hurricanes will have to deal without the power of Brown in the middle of the lineup and Jimerson's speed at the top. Miami also lost three starting pitchers. Both Howard and Bengochea could emerge as the Hurricanes as leaders.

Rodriguez led the nation with 66 stolen bases, which set the Hurricanes single0-season record. Huguet collected 14 saves to equal Robbie Morrison's 1996 freshman school-record. Luke DeBold, the primary setup man, recorded 67 strikeouts to just seven walks all season. The Hurricanes 2002 schedule is one of the toughest in the nation for the upcoming season. Miami opens the season with a three-game series against Tennessee at Mark Light Stadium. The Hurricanes will also meet Florida, FIU, Minnesota, Southern California, Houston, South Florida, Rutgers, UCLA, Florida State, Long Beach State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Jacksonville.

With the tough schedule ahead and lack of experience, Morris is looking for some of his young players to produce.

"Some of the young guys will have to step up," Morris said.

Fall practice is open to the public.

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