Morris Upbeat About '05 Season

University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris did his best to ease the pain of being bounced out of the College World Series for the second straight season by showering the Hurricanes with praise. "I'm proud of my guys because they kept fighting and never quit," said Morris. "They showed what kind of character they have in battling to the final out."

But some of those guys won't be around when the Hurricanes get back to work in the fall.

The Hurricanes, who were eliminated from the CWS after dropping consecutive games to Cal-State Fullerton and South Carolina, are going to lose at least four players from this year's 54-win squad that swept through the Regionals, including seniors Jim Burt, Adam Ricks and J. D. Cockroft.

Junior catcher Erick San Pedro, drafted by the Montreal Expos in the second round of the MLB amateur draft earlier this month, is expected to sign a pro contract. Junior outfielder Richard Giannotti was drafted by the Anaheim Angeles in the 38th round.

Burt and Cockroft were freshmen on the 2001 national championship squad.

"Those guys really accomplished a lot while they were here," Morris says. "I'm very proud of them."

That doesn't mean things won't be different next season. Miami will go from being an independent to the Atlantic Coast Conference where they will have to measure up with long-time rival Florida State, not to mention North Carolina and North Carolina State.

As a member of the ACC the Hurricanes won't be able to schedule 44 home games like this past season. The Hurricanes will have to compete in an end of year conference tournament - making the road to the CWS a little tougher than usual.

The Canes did play three-game series at Florida State and Georgia Tech this season and had home-series against North Carolina and Virginia.

"We always have one of the toughest schedules in the nation so I don't think it's going to be a big difference," said Morris, who has guided the Hurricanes to the CWS nine out of 11 seasons. "The competition is going to be fierce night in and night out."

But the Hurricanes should have enough pieces in place to make a run at the ACC championship and another CWS appearance.

At least five of the starters in this year's CWS - six if Giannotti opts to stay in school - should return next season, including left-fielder Jon Jay, third baseman Gaby Sanchez, shortstop Roger Tomas, designated hitter Ryan Braun and right-hander Cesar Carrillo.

Miami will also be aided by some of the top prep players in the nation, including several from Dade County. Despite losing the services of Gio Gonzalez, who signed with the White Sox, the Hurricanes can probably count on Columbus High catcher Alex Garabedian joining the squad in the fall.

Garabedian, drafted in the seventh round by the New York Yankees, recently said he would opt to play at UM if San Pedro turned pro. Killian High infielder Danny Robitaille could also have an early impact with the Hurricanes.

Also expected to return: Danny and Paco Figueroa, Dan Touchet, Vince Bongiovanni, Marcelo Albir, Danny Gil and Ricky Orta.

"We're going to have a good team," Morris said. "That's what happens at Miami - you lose some quality guys, but some of the new ones usually step up."

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