They have been dating for about a year now. He’s the ace on the baseball team, and she’s a starting forward on the women’s soccer team.
But when they first met, Andy Suarez said he had no idea where Ava Ambrose was from. When he finally asked, her response made him laugh.
“She said Omaha,” Suarez said. “I said, ‘Oh wow. That’s crazy.’”
A year after meeting Ava and opening eyes when he turned down nearly $1 million to come back to school and get his degrees in criminology and psychology, Suarez is finally heading to Omaha, Nebraska, himself.
On Monday night, he was drafted 61st overall by the San Francisco Giants in the MLB Draft.
On Saturday at 8 p.m. when the Hurricanes (49-15) take on the Florida Gators (49-16) on the first day of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park, the 6-2, 205-pound Suarez will be carrying UM’s hopes for a fifth national title on his left arm. And Ava’s parents will be in the stands cheering him on.
“I’ve met them before,” Suarez said. “But this trip, it’s definitely going to be all business for me over there.”
Business with a huge side of pleasure if the Hurricanes can climb back to college baseball’s mountaintop. Getting past the Gators, who took two of three from the Hurricanes in Gainesville in February, won’t be easy in the opening game.
UF, like UM, has a potent lineup. Florida ranks 22nd in batting average (.299), sixth in runs scored (450), 13th in home runs (60) and 44th in stolen bases (79). The Gators also pitch well (3.22 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) and play the best defense in the nation (.985 fielding percentage).
“I honestly think this could be their most talented team since I’ve been here at Miami,” coach Jim Morris said Monday after practice.
But Florida hasn’t faced Suarez yet.
Moments before Suarez was going to take the mound in his second start of the season on Feb.20, he strained an oblique muscle while he was warming up in the bullpen. He missed the start and another four weeks after that but came back and shined, going 9-1 with a 2.96 ERA, 74 strikeouts and 19 walks in 79 innings.
After UM lost its three other starting pitchers to graduation following the 2014 season, pitching coach J.D. Arteaga said Suarez’s return provided the kind of veteran leadership the team sorely needed this season. He’s not sure UM would be going to Omaha had Suarez not surprised everyone and told the Washington Nationals thanks, but no thanks after they took him with last year’s 57th overall pick.
“We had talent but no experience, and no one to really lean on or talk to and learn from, someone to look up to,” Arteaga said. “Andy coming back, a fourth-year guy, was huge. We didn’t really lose a step when he went out. But when he came back it made us that much better.”
The Hurricanes, college baseball’s highest scoring team (538 runs) and sixth-best hitting team (.311), rank 20th in team ERA (3.02). Florida is expected to start sophomore right-hander Logan Shore (9-6, 2.50 ERA, 74 strikeouts, 22 walks) against UM.
Shore was supposed to go head-to-head with Suarez
on Feb. 20 in a highly anticipated pitcher’s duel. Like Suarez, though, his night didn’t last long. He threw nine pitches before he left with an injury.
Like he has for all 14 of Suarez’s starts season, Morris said he will have sophomore Zack Collins behind the plate. Collins, who shares the catching duties with Garrett Kennedy, said he hopes he and Suarez don’t have to talk much.
“When he has his stuff, I try not to say anything to him, and it usually works,” said Collins, who said he tries to let Suarez get into his own little world. “Every time he goes out there Andy gives us a great outing and a chance to win.”
▪ Arteaga said right-hander Enrique Sosa, UM’s No. 3 starter most of the season, had his shoulder stiffen up on him after his last start, a 3-0 loss to Columbia on May 30. Arteaga said Sosa threw from about 120 feet Monday and is feeling better.
“It is a concern,” Arteaga said. “But with the timetable of the games, with the days off in between games, it allows us to have Danny Garcia possibly live in those first two games and come back in Game 3, if we had to. But Sosa is feeling good, much better.”