The last time we left the Miami Hurricanes baseball players their heads were down with the dreaded realization that their extraordinary 44-year postseason run was over.
That was late last May.
On Friday, their first day of 2018 spring practice, the Canes and longtime coach Jim Morris were an upbeat, smiling bunch ready to start a new streak in Morris’ final season as head coach.
“I feel a lot better as a player and as a teammate,” said left-handed senior ace Jeb Bargfeldt (7-3, 2.28 ERA in 2017). “We certainly haven’t forgotten about that. It has fueled us throughout the fall. It has fueled us throughout our workouts. At 6 a.m., it’s a lot easier to wake up this year knowing that if you don’t get it done, that’s what it feels like.”
Morris, about to begin his 25th season at UM, said he’s excited about this year’s club, but that last year was “the toughest” of his coaching career, “without question. I wouldn’t be coaching 25 years if I had many of those seasons at Miami. It’s definitely a motivation to get better, for me and for our team.’’
Miami (31-27 in 2017) opens the 2018 season Feb. 16 with a three-game home series against Rutgers, and faces in-state nemesis and the defending College World Series champion Florida Gators the next weekend — Feb. 23-25 — at Mark Light Field.
But they’ll be doing it until at least late March or early April without freshman right-handed pitcher Chris McMahon, who chose to come to UM after being drafted by Milwaukee in the 33rd round. McMahon underwent surgery earlier this month to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
The other freshman who chose UM after being drafted (37th round, Oakland) is infielder Ray Gil.
UM’s preseason top 25 rankings are No. 20 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll released Thursday.
The Canes lost junior outfielder Carl Chester (12th round, Tampa Bay Rays) and right-handed junior pitcher Jesse Lepore (24th round, Colorado Rockies) to the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.