But the slump came for obvious reasons as the ‘Canes met up with two of the nation's best teams in conference foes Clemson and North Carolina. Both weekends of baseball saw some disappointing results as Miami was swept in Coral Gables by Clemson and a week later lost 2 of 3 at home against the Tar Heels.
Not having been ranked in the Baseball America Top 25 and following losing 5 of 6 on their home field, there was definitely no reason to have any true hope of success as the ‘Canes traveled to Tallahassee to take on arch rival Florida State, also ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Not to mention that FSU had also won 32 consecutive home games and was riding a 32-4 record heading into their weekend series with ‘Canes.
Sandwiched around a 16-1 pulverization Saturday night, the ‘Canes managed to do the unthinkable taking two of three games in the series behind some quality starting pitching by Carlos Gutierrez and Scott Maine. Winning was not unthinkable. It was the pitching that swallowed the ‘Noles bats in two of three games that was so impressive.
In the ‘Canes two wins, their starting pitchers allowed only 11 hits in 13 innings pitched and made the ‘Noles offense that averages 8.5 runs per game look meager.
It's the type of pitching the ‘Canes had sorely been missing in the six games prior to the ‘Noles series as they had given up 8, 6, and 14 runs to Clemson and followed that with some more shelling performances giving up 8, 7 and 9 runs to North Carolina.
In six quality innings, Gutierrez stymied the ‘Noles potent bats limiting them to two runs in six innings and in seven quality innings Sunday, Maine limited the ‘Noles to only three runs.
So this begs the question for the Miami baseball team? Could a series like this where they were huge underdogs propel them to a great finish to their season? If they get pitching like they did in games one and three of the series, there is no doubt that these ‘Canes, with the little offensive power they have, could make a run in the post season.
But that is the key. Pitching, pitching and more pitching.
Against the lower tier teams, the ‘Canes have dominated with an 18-1 record against teams with a less than .500 winning percentage, but against the teams that are above .500, the ‘Canes have struggled mightily with an 8-12 record, including being swept at home twice in the same season for the first time in ages when Florida and Clemson both owned the ‘Canes in Coral Gables earlier this year.
But two wins over the ‘Noles on the road could be the type of momentum swing the ‘Canes sorely needed to show not just the fans, but themselves that they can win games over a top tier opponent like Florida State.
And pitching will be the key to it all.
With a line up that obviously isn't as potent as the one's the ‘Canes have had in the past, pitching will have to be there in order to win the one run games. UM has only 31 home runs in 38 games. Take into consideration the line ups that had Pat Burrell, Jason Michaels and Aubrey Huff in the late 90s. Those three players combined doubled that total alone.
While Miami has been able to score at a decent clip with 6.7 runs per game, it's been done for the most part by way of small ball. Scratching some singles and doubles together along with a steal here and there.
Take into consideration the fact that Miami's best offensive performers this year have been Yonder Alonso who has been peppering the ball with a .319 batting average, 6 home runs and 46 RBI, but he's only a freshman, and catcher Eddy Rodriguez, who a couple of years ago could barely make contact.
Rodriguez is hitting a team leading .343 with 6 home runs and 23 RBI.
For the ‘Canes though, it starts here because winning two of three can either start a major push at hosting a Regional and Super Regional, two major advantages to getting to the College World Series, or we'll find out that winning the series over the ‘Noles was nothing more than an aberration.
We'll soon find out which one it was.
Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org