Canes seek redemption

The last thing University of Miami freshman reliever Vince Bongiovanni remembers is the ball flying off the bat of Stephen Drew. The result wasn't what he wanted either as the Florida State freshman outfielder trotted around the bases with a game-winning home run, while a dejected Bongiovanni had to make the lonely walk back into the losing clubhouse.

Drew's blast sent the Florida State faithful at Dick Howser Stadium into a frenzy and Hurricanes to their second consecutive series defeat. Miami dropped two of three to Elon University, March 29-31.

"That was a tough beat, but we took some good strides," said UM third baseman Kevin Howard. The Hurricanes (18-15), who have lost four of their past six games, get another chance at the Seminoles (30-11) this weekend –April 12-14- at Mark Light Stadium. Miami, 3-3 in home series this season, is 14-10 overall at the ‘Light'. FSU, who had a 19-game home winning streak snapped by the Hurricanes April 6, is 10-8 on the road.

First pitch for Friday and Saturday is 7 p.m. The series finale on Sunday is at 1 p.m. Sunshine Network will have live telecast of the first two games and WVUM (90.5 FM) will broadcast the entire series.

Miami pitchers T. J. Prunty (4-2, 5.76 ERA), Dan Touchet (3-1, 3.92) and Kiki Bengochea (2-4, 6.18) are slated to start with Matt Lynch (6-1, 3.84), Robby Read (5-1, 4.37) and Blair Varnes (4-3, 4.21) opening for Florida State. UM right-hander Troy Roberson (1-1, 5.12) continues to be bothered by a sore elbow. His status is day-to-day.

Touchet, a sophomore right-hander, pitched a career-high 7.2 innings for the Hurricanes to earn a 5-2 win over the Seminoles in the middle game of the series, April 6. Touchet added six strikeouts and retired 20 consecutive hitters in one stretch during rgw game. Lynch, a junior left-hander for the Seminoles, went seven innings, allowing seven hits and three runs with five strikeouts to pick up the victory in the series opener, April 5.

Although, the Hurricanes were outscored (24-15) and had fewer hits (33-28) against the Seminoles in Tallahassee, Miami managed to clean up it's act a little bit. The young Hurricanes, plagued by fielding problems all season, committed just one error in the entire series. Florida State had seven.

Senior shortstop Javy Rodriguez and junior third baseman Kevin Howard have 11 errors each to lead the team, but Howard came way feeling good about the Hurricanes overall performance. UM had 11 extra-base hits, including a Brad Safchik homer in the 9-7 setback last Sunday.

Freshman centerfielder Danny Figueroa, who hit .455 in the series, was 5-for-11 with two runs scored and four RBI. Figueroa had four hits in the second game of the series. Figueroa also noticed that the Hurricanes made some positive strides.

"I felt this was a very good weekend for us," said Figueroa, hitting .279 with seven RBI on the season. "It's unfortunate the way things turned out, but we fought and worked hard all the way through the final pitch. You can't be happy anytime you loss a ballgame, but the message delivered to us was that we should walk with our heads up high."

There is one thing that Miami has to be consistent with according to the first-year player.

"We have to put together the big innings whenever we get those opportunities," said Figueroa. "We haven't come through with as many big hits as we could. That really puts pressure on our pitchers to be perfect."

Figueroa said that a set line-up and several months playing with veterans like Rodriguez and Howard should benefit the rest of the squad as the Hurricanes head down the stretch. He expects good things to start happening soon.

We definitely feel like we're turning the corner a little bit," said Howard, third on the team with a .336 batting average and second with six home runs. "If you compared this team now to where we were at the beginning of the season its not even close. Having a young team had a lot to do with it, but these guys are very talented players and now how to play the game. We still have a lot of games to play."

The Hurricanes hitters may have taken several steps forward against the Seminoles. But the bullpen struggled for most the series. Miami relievers surrendered 10 runs and 14 hits in 13 innings pitched, which included letting two late-inning leads get away Sunday afternoon.

In the rubber game, J. D. Cockroft, Shawn Valdes- Fauli and Andrew Cohn combined to pitch a scoreless seventh inning after Bengochea was removed. Sophomore closer George Huguet limited the Noles to one run on four hits before Drew tagged Bongiovanni.

"It's over and done with. We have to move on and continue to play solid baseball the rest of the way," Howard said.

In order to start this weekend, the Hurricanes will probably have to fare better with Drew, whose performance has caused such a stir around Tallahassee that Florida State coach Mike Martin doesn't want him talking with the media.

Drew, the Seminoles starting shortstop and younger brother of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder J. D. Drew, did much more than send the Hurricanes home with one swing. The 6-foot, 185-pounder was 5-for-13 with six RBI and five runs scored in the series. He also made several crowd-pleasing plays defensively.

Drew, who has started in 13 games this season, is hitting .316 (18-for-57) with four home runs and 14 RBI. Drew is being touted as the next baseball superstar to come out of Tallahassee.

"That boy has some serious talent," said Florida State senior first baseman Ryan Barthelemy, who leads the team with a .409 batting average, 10 home runs and 61 RBI. "This guy can hit, run, throw and is very aware of everything going on around. I'd say he has a pretty good future in this game."

The Seminoles are hitting .308 as a team. Sophomore outfielder Tony McQuade is hitting .404 with a homer and 22 RBI, followed by senior Nick Rogers, who is hitting .333 with four homers and 34 RBI. Rogers also has 12 stolen bases.

Miami is led offensively by sophomore Jim Burt with a .355 batting average to along with five home runs and 29 runs batted in. Danny Matienzo (.311) has a team-high 10 homers and 30 RBI.

"Hopefully we can keep him off the bases –Drew- and set the table ourselves," said Figueroa. "If we can get off on the right foot, I like our chances this time."

The Hurricanes trail the all-time series 117-105-3.

ADIOS AMIGO: The series will be the last for UM baseball SID Joe Hornstein, who turned in his resignation last week. Hornstein, who came to the University of Miami from Florida State in 1997, will be taking over as Assistant Media Relations Director for the Florida Marlins.

"I have sincerely enjoyed each friendship and contact that I have made here. Everyone will be remembered," said Hornstein. "In one word, the four and a half years at UM were incredible."

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