It’s just past the halfway point of the regular season for Miami’s two Division I baseball teams, and here’s a quick look at how they have done and what to expect the rest of the way:
The Hurricanes (18-12, 8-4) started the season in Baseball America’s Top 25 but fell out, due in large part to several losses to unranked teams such as Bethune-Cookman, Maine, Florida Atlantic, Stetson and UCF.
Miami has played fairly well against ranked teams, taking one out of three at No. 1 Florida State, one of three against No. 3 Virginia and two of three against No. 13 Florida.
In addition, North Carolina State was No. 25 last weekend when the Canes swept three games on their home field.
• Top freshman hitter: With David Thompson injured and out for the year, right fielder Willie Abreu has emerged as the team’s top hitter (.337). He has a big arm in right field and has shown impressive patience at the plate for a rookie, drawing a team-high 18 walks. He is big and strong, so expect the power to come soon.
• Top freshman pitcher: With a fastball consistently clocked at 94 mph, Bryan Garcia flashed his ability right away. He entered Friday 2-2 with a 1.89 ERA and seven saves.
• Most improved: Senior center fielder Dale Carey batted just .192 with one homer last season. He entered this season with a combined total of just four homers in three years. But this year, he is batting .282 with five homers. He leads the team with 10 doubles and a .513 slugging percentage.
• Most underrated: Freshman DH Zach Collins is hitting .227, so he might be easy for some to overlook. But he has overcome a brutal start and now leads the team in homers (six) and RBI (22). A wild card in this category is first baseman Brad Zunica. He has been given just four starts, but scouts love his size (6-6, 255 pounds), strength and lefty swing.
• More is expected (second half): Junior No. 3 starter Bryan Radziewski should be better than his current numbers: 1-2 with a 4.28 ERA. He entered this season with a 20-5 career record and a 2.63 ERA.
The Panthers (23-7, 7-6 Conference USA) have a stellar record, especially outside of league play.
A knock on the Panthers would be that their schedule is light. The only Top 25 team they have faced was No. 12 Rice, which swept host FIU in three games.• MVP: Catcher Aramis Garcia is hitting .393 with a team-high five homers and a team-best 1.110 OPS.
• Top freshman hitter: Right fielder Brandon Gomez of Monsignor Pace leads the team with a .397 batting average and has used the entire field to spray line drives. FIU coach Turtle Thomas said Gomez needs to avoid trying to pull too many pitches.
• Top freshman pitcher: Southwest High’s Chris Mourelle was supposed to be a middle reliever this season, but he has already made five starts and is 5-0 with a 0.73 ERA. A finesse pitcher with a four-pitch mix, Mourelle has overshadowed another top freshman, Cody Crouse, who has more of a power arm. Crouse has made four starts and is 2-1 with a 1.56 ERA.
• Most improved: Junior Mike Franco (4-1, 1.00 ERA entering Friday) has gone from Sunday starter to Friday starter, an important move up.
• Most underrated: Second baseman Edwin Rios is hitting .323 with a team-high 27 RBI. But his defense is overlooked. FIU struggled to turn double plays last season, but, with Rios’ strong and accurate arm, that is no longer a problem. Center fielder Tyler Hibbert is also underrated because of his pedestrian .287 batting average. But he leads the team in walks (23) and steals (12) while compiling a .418 on-base percentage.
• More is expected (second half): Junior Michael Ellis, who missed most of last season and all of this past fall because of back surgery, is no longer in the rotation. But Thomas expects Ellis (5-2, 2.32) will be valuable in the second half out of the bullpen.