Miami Hurricanes need one or they’re done

UM must win at least one of its final three games to make the ACC tournament and not put its record NCAA tournament streak in jeopardy.

05/16/2013 12:01 AM

05/16/2013 1:54 AM

On Tuesday after practice, Chantz Mack helped gather the University of Miami hitters in an attempt to ignite a flame beneath a group that has consistently let down an outstanding pitching staff.

It was an emotional gathering, admitted Mack, a team captain who leads Miami with a .302 batting average, but has a hard time fathoming why his teammates can’t string some hits together for runs.

“We’re sick of losing to teams we know we can beat,” he said. “We had a heart-to-heart and things should be changing.”

If so, they better change fast.

The Hurricanes (33-20, 12-15 Atlantic Coast Conference) will face ACC foe Georgia Tech (32-21, 14-13) in the final regular-season series beginning 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Alex Rodriguez Park.

Miami must win at least one of its last three games to be guaranteed a spot in the ACC Tournament that begins next Wednesday in Durham, N.C.

Only eight of the 12 ACC teams qualify for the league tournament, which precedes the NCAA Tournament.

The Hurricanes have qualified for the NCAA Tournament the past 40 years — a national record — and are projected to qualify again because of their current No. 18 RPI.

But winning their final series would do wonders to bolster their status.

The Canes are 3-6 in three-game series against ACC opponents this season. They have swept only three teams (Rutgers, Milwaukee and St. John’s) in weekend series, none of them league opponents.

“It’s a big weekend for us,’’ said UM coach Jim Morris. “Everybody knows what we need to do. We understand that our pitching can go out and put up zeros on any given team.

“Hopefully [we’ll] score a few runs for them.”

UM’s collective starting pitching rotation of sophomore Chris Diaz (5-4, 1.41), junior Bryan Radziewski (8-1, 1.26 ERA) and sophomore Andrew Suarez (3-4, 3.13) is the strongest in the ACC. Its closer, senior Eric Nedeljkovic (2-2, 1.48) leads the conference with 12 saves.

But the Hurricanes are run-challenged. Their .261 team batting average has produced 238 runs — second fewest in the ACC. They have 12 home runs, worst in the conference, while the Yellow Jackets lead the ACC with 48.

“It’s more frustrating than you would know,” said Nedeljkovic of the Canes being unable to put productive hitting and pitching together.

“The starting pitching is definitely wearing it more than anyone because they’re the ones going out there for seven, eight, nine innings — and Diaz giving up no runs, one unearned run, just spectacular outings” without getting the support.

“Nobody is blaming anyone. Hitters know the pitchers are working their butts off and pitchers know the hitters are doing the same. We’re still rooting for each other the same way we did the first game.”

Said Mack: “Team-wise I just want everyone to play together, work together to get these runs in and win together. Right now it’s just a huge roller-coaster ride.

“The pitching has been great all year. I just want to be a complete team.”

The Yellow Jackets will start right-hander Buck Farmer (8-3, 2.49) in the opener, and righty Dusty Isaacs (5-3, 3.57) in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. matchup.

The Saturday finale begins at 1 p.m.

All three games will be broadcast on radio by WQAM 560 and WVUM 90.5 FM, televised by CSS and available online at ESPN3.

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