One pitch. One moment.
That, more or less, has become University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris’ mantra as his Hurricanes take on rival Florida State in a three-game weekend series beginning at 7 p.m. Friday at Mark Light Field.
The Hurricanes (18-19, 9-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) defeated FAU on Wednesday night to take that first step toward their goal of making it to the NCAA tournament. Now, here come those Seminoles (24-15, 9-9), with a 149-128-4 edge in the series that dates to 1951 and Miami on the short end of the rivalry in recent years (5-11 since 2012).
“FSU vs. Miami is something you think about from your first recruiting visit,’’ said UM left-handed ace Jeb Bargfeldt (2-2, 1.69 ERA) of his debut Friday-night start. “You want the ball in your hands. You know the atmosphere will be insane. You dig deep and take it personally.
“This means a lot to not only us but to the people in the stands.”
The Hurricanes must keep winning to extend their NCAA-record, 44-year streak of qualifying for the field-of-64 tournament, and be assured that the stands will be packed at Alex Rodriguez Park. The series continues at 7 p.m. Saturday and concludes with the third game at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Sophomore righty Cole Sands (5-2, 4.60) will start for FSU on Friday.
Morris, the architect of UM national titles in 1999 and 2001, knows he has to get his players to focus on the moment.
“It hurts everybody that cares about the program,’’ Morris told the Miami Herald about UM being painfully on the bubble of getting an NCAA berth. “But these guys have to battle through it and do all the little things it takes to win — good offense, good defense and good pitching. We can’t worry about the [44-year] thing. We have to think about today, about each game as it comes.”
FSU is also fighting to stay ahead in the final push for the postseason but is coming off three wins in a row that include two huge ones against third-ranked Clemson (31-7, 14-4). Those wins not only help FSU in its Ratings Percentage Index but in turn would help UM improve its RPI should the Canes take the series this weekend.
The RPI consists of three factors that help the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee determine who gets into the regionals: winning percentage, strength of schedule and your opponents’ opponents’ strength of schedules. FSU has the nation’s No. 29 RPI, with UM at No. 68.
UM infielder Romy Gonzalez believes the Canes will make the regionals.
“We have a lot of great guys on this team and our chemistry is really something special,’’ Gonzalez said. “We all have one goal and that’s to make it to Omaha [for the College World Series]. And even though sometimes it may not seem like it, we’re pushing and working hard every day. I think we’ll finish well.’’