University of Miami

Hurricanes hope last year’s experience pays off at College World Series

Just before he walked out of the ballpark in Omaha for the final time last June, Miami baseball coach Jim Morris smiled when asked about the 2016 version of the Hurricanes.

“We’re going to be pretty good,” he said.

Last year’s trip to the College World Series proved to benefit this year’s version of the Hurricanes as Miami is back in Omaha for the 25th time.

The Hurricanes (50-12) open CWS play Saturday at 8 p.m. (ESPN2) against Arizona.

Florida, the top national seed, will start its tournament Sunday at 8 against Coastal Carolina.

The Gators handed Miami both of its losses here last year but are in a different bracket. If the two meet up again this year, it will be in the finals for the national championship.

“It’s exciting for us to be back,’’ Morris said Friday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park. “What’s great is, half of our guys played here last year and they feel a little more at ease, a little more at home. That has to be an advantage for any team to be able to do that.’’

As Morris noted after Miami was eliminated by Florida last June, a potential return to Omaha shouldn’t be daunting for a Miami team largely intact from last year.

Obviously, the Hurricanes have some new faces this year and lost some experience from the 2015 squad either to graduation or the draft.

Yet most of the players Miami is counting on in the coming days were here last year and are ready for a better showing.

“Being here just means we did something right,’’ said outfielder Jacob Heyward, who had a huge game in Miami’s lone win here last year against Arkansas.

“To be back in Omaha in consecutive years is just a great feeling. We have confidence, we’re not too shocked by the experience. We’re ready to play baseball.’’

Said closer Bryan Garcia: “We know how things work, we know how to handle a day off in between games. We know how to prepare for this and aren’t in awe of it. This is what we worked for. We knew we should be back in Omaha and here we are.”

Of Miami’s three games here last year, only one starting pitcher -- 2015 staff ace Andy Suarez -- is gone, although Thomas Woodrey is now in the bullpen after starting Game 2.

Sophomore Michael Mediavilla will start Saturday night after appearing in all three Omaha games from the pen last year.

Mediavilla said coming in to pitch in the CWS opener against Florida in front of a capacity crowd of over 25,000 last June was daunting.

On Friday, Mediavilla didn’t seem too nervous about his start against the Wildcats.

“It’s good to come back a second time and try to redeem ourselves from last year,” said Mediavilla, who Miami’s first 11-game winner since Chris Hernandez in 2008.

“We know what to expect in Omaha. I don’t see a lot of pressure [pitching the opener] because I’m doing what I love. You go in and try and play for your team and your city. I’m from Miami and always dreamed of being able to pitch for my city.’’

Unlike the Hurricanes, the other three teams in the bracket have no CWS experience.

Arizona coach Jay Johnson and UC Santa Barbara coach Andrew Checketts said they are in Omaha for the first time in their lives.

The Wildcats (44-21) last appeared at the CWS in 2012 with Johnson saying he only had one player who had participated in the NCAA regionals prior to this year’s run to Omaha.

“They’ve earned the right to be here,’’ Johnson said. “We had a great non-conference schedule, navigated the Pac-12 and went on the road to two hostile environments.’’

Johnson joked that he asked Morris for some advice on how his team should handle the added pressure of this stage.

Morris, whose Hurricanes won it all here in 1999 and 2001, said just let the players enjoy it all.

“This is a different deal,’’ Morris said. “There’s more fans, more media, more everything than we’re used to. This is a different level.”

College World Series

When, where: Saturday through June 28 or 29; TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Nebraska

Saturday: UC Santa Barbara vs. Oklahoma State (ESPN2), 3 p.m.; Miami vs. Arizona (ESPN2), 8

Sunday: TCU vs. Texas Tech (ESPNU), 3 p.m.; Florida vs. Coastal Carolina (ESPN2), 8

Monday: Loser’s bracket game from Saturday (ESPNU), 2 p.m.; Winner’s bracket game from Saturday (ESPN), 7

Tuesday: Loser’s bracket game from Sunday (ESPNU), 5 p.m.; Winner’s bracket game from Sunday (ESPN), 9 p.m.

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