Turning Up the Heat

Anybody want to strike up a conversation with Cesar Carrillo? One suggestion - get real close to the kid. By his own admission, Carrillo doesn't feel comfortable talking about himself. Even in a half-empty dugout Carrillo's words are barely audible as he tries his best to answer the questions coming his way.

"I'm not really good with this stuff," says Carrillo. "I feel a lot more at ease when I'm on the mound doing my thing."

No joke.

At 10-0 with an 2.89 ERA the University of Miami right-hander, who will start game two of the NCAA super regional series against Florida, Sunday at Mark Light Field, has provided plenty of answers on the mound for the Hurricanes - all the while shooting to the top of the rotation as the season progressed.

"I really couldn't ask for anything more right now," says Carrillo, a sophomore, who leads the Hurricanes in strikeouts (76) and innings pitched (96.2). "But my main thing is going out there and giving the team a chance to win every time out."

He's done that and more. Since joining being inserted in the starting rotation in early May the slender 6-2, 165-pounder has mixed a sizzling mid 90's fastball with an assortment of breaking pitches to give the Hurricanes it's most reliable starter this season and become one of the best in the nation.

Carrillo, who has made 10 quality starts - at least six innings pitched, three runs or less allowed - for the Hurricanes this season, has allowed four runs or more in just three starts.

From March 12 to April 17, Carrillo recorded five victories in six starts, going at least six innings in five of those outings. Carrillo went seven innings, allowing two runs and seven hits against Rutgers to pick up his first career victory as a starter. He followed that up with consecutive wins over Illinois-Chicago and Penn State.

Carrillo continued to impress with home-and-away victories against Florida State, allowing seven runs and 14 hits in 14 innings pitched. He had a career-high eight strikeouts in a victory over Ball State May 21. The Hurricanes are 14-0 when Carrillo starts a game.

"He's got the perfect make-up to be a pitcher," says UM coach Jim Morris. "He's not afraid of anything, no matter what the situation is."

Carrillo, 20, had to wait to show what he could do after being forced to sit out last year because of academic issues regarding an ACT test score in high school. Carrillo doesn't like to discuss the topic.

"It's something that happened, but I'm not looking back," says Carrillo.

Carrillo, who grew up in Chicago, was drafted in the 33rd round of the 2003 draft by the Kansas City Royals after excelling as a pitcher and shortstop at Mt. Carmel High. He posted a 14-2 mark as a pitcher and set a single-season record with 52 hits as a junior.

"It's something that's always been in my blood," said Carrillo. "It doesn't come easy, but I know if I keep working hard I have a chance to get places."

He's also proven to be mature beyond his years.

After all of his success during the regular season, Morris was really impressed with the way Carrillo regrouped despite a rough start in last week's regional against North Carolina State.

The Wolfpack took a 4-0 lead off Carrillo in the top of the first with four hits, including a pair of doubles and home run. But he managed to get out of the inning with no further damage and held NC State to one run and three hits for the next five innings.

"Cesar is a mentally tough kid and he showed it in that situation," says Morris. "A lot of guys would have thrown in the towel, but he just kept battling. That's the sign of a good pitcher, when you can keep it together on a day that you don't have your best stuff. He can do that."

But there might be another start - or two - in Carrillo's immediate future if the Hurricanes get past the Gators this weekend. One more win and the Hurricanes will be packing for Omaha.

"It wasn't a hard decision to come to Miami because I knew we would be fighting for a spot in the College World Series," says Carrillo. "It doesn't get any better than that in my opinion."

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