University of Miami

Notre Dame is next foe as Miami Hurricanes baseball team aims to extend streak

It wasn’t so long ago that the Miami baseball team was barely above .500 and had dropped out of the national polls.

On March 26, the Hurricanes beat visiting Florida Gulf Coast 4-0 and haven’t lost since.

Miami heads into its weekend series against new ACC rival Notre Dame riding the nation’s longest winning streak at 13 games — UM’s longest since winning 14 consecutive games in 2008.

The Hurricanes, now ranked 11th nationally, have swept three conference series in a row (for the first time since joining the ACC in 2004) during the streak and have surged toward the top of the Coastal Division standings.

Miami and Notre Dame kick off the three-game set Saturday at 7 p.m.

The Canes and Fighting Irish haven’t played each other on the diamond since 1999.

“As a coach, you’re always worried about things whether you’re winning or losing,” said coach Jim Morris, whose team has 17 games left before the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

“Although I was worried earlier on, I was confident this club — our young players with the combination of the veteran players we had back — would be good at the end.”

The Hurricanes early schedule was a challenge as nine of the opening 25 games came against nationally-ranked teams.

Miami lost two of three at Florida State — which doesn’t count in the ACC standings — as well as two of three at home to Virginia.

The Hurricanes’ previous loss came 5-3 against the now top-ranked Cavaliers.

Miami also lost to unranked UCF, FAU, Stetson, Bethune-Cookman, Georgia Tech and Maine in the first half of the year.

“I think we had one of the toughest schedules in the country early on and that was part of it,’’ said Morris, whose team took two of three in Gainesville against the Gators in February.

“We also started four of five freshman and those guys needed to get their feet on the ground a little bit.’’

During its winning streak, Miami has done well in close games.

Seven of the 13 wins have been by one run, with three coming in 2-1 games. Last Saturday, the Canes got an infield single from freshman Willie Abreu to score John Lawroski from third in the bottom of the 10th for a 1-0 win.

Strong pitching and timely hitting have helped the Hurricanes during this stretch as they are all but certain to extend their NCAA active record to 42 consecutive tournament appearances.

“The secret to having a good season or having a great season is winning the close games,’’ Morris said. “We’ve won our share of them lately and that’s huge. That means our bullpen is getting the job done and we’re making clutch plays or getting big hits. It’s a combination of all of those.’’

The Hurricanes have also been getting strong starting pitching from and Morris said Friday that ace lefty Chris Diaz (6-0) will start Saturday’s opener. Andrew Suarez (4-1) and Bryan Radziewski (3-2) get the other two games.

Freshman closer Bryan Garcia is tied for the ACC lead with 11 saves.

“Starting pitching has been the strength of our team,’’ Morris said, “but our bullpen has been throwing really good as well.’’

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