Baseball team set to start season
From important players to big match-ups, writers sound off on pressing issues
Published: Friday, February 22, 2008
Updated: Sunday, February 14, 2010 23:02
Miami's Baseball team will start their schedule this weekend in Tempe, Arizona against the No. 9 nationally ranked Arizona State University Sun Devils. Here is what beat writers Kevin Jacobs (KJ) and Ben Garbarek (BG) had to say about the upcoming season.
What should Miami fans expect to see out of the baseball team this season?
KJ: Miami fans will get a good sense of just what to expect out of this year's RedHawk squad from the first three games of the season. The Red and White travel to Tempe, Arizona on February 22 and lead off their season with three games in three days-all against teams nationally ranked in the top 10.
Once the 'Hawks return home, students who are contemplating making the trek down to Haden Park should expect to see dazzling defensive play in both the infield and outfield. The double play combination of Jordan Petraitis and Evan Armitage will not only shine on defense, but will provide plenty of pop at the plate. Petraitis and Armitage, along with outfielder Chris Nadeau, will provide the bulk of run support from the heart of the order for Miami.
The biggest question mark for the 'Hawks will be the starting pitching. With their top three starters gone (to either the draft or graduation), seniors Chris Niro and Matt Erwood should fill the top two spots in the rotation, with sophomores Reece Asbury, Nick Kurash and red shirt freshman Jimmy Gerlach vying for the third slot.
BG: RedHawks fans should expect to see some high-quality hitting and a solid bullpen but major question marks in the starting pitching rotation. Junior infielder Jordan Petraitis is returning from his All-MAC First Team selection last year and will be a force at the plate for the Red and White along with last year's RBI leader, outfielder Chris Nadeau. Bobby Oberschlake will anchor the bullpen, looking to top last year's razor-thin ERA of 1.48. Senior Chris Niro is poised to be the ace of Miami's staff, despite only four starts last year. While there are some uncertainties surrounding the upcoming season, Miami boasts several players primed to take advantage of these open opportunities.
Which player will have the biggest impact on Miami's season?
KJ: There is one thing I want to know about this season: what can Chris Niro do on the mound? His performance as a starting pitcher and key offensive contributor this season will be the biggest single factor in determining how successful Miami can be this season. While I would like to emphasize how important it will be for the rest of the rotation to perform, Niro's opportunity to become the ace of the staff cannot be overlooked.
Even with only four starts last season, he has all the tools needed to lead this rotation; his performance may ultimately determine if Miami is able to contend for the MAC Championship.
BG: Although Petraitis will be counted on to lead through his strong play at the plate and manning the infield, Niro may have the largest impact on the 'Hawks' season. Miami lost last year's ace, John Ely, to the MLB draft leaving large shoes to fill for Niro. Despite only having 19 career appearances on the mound in three years, Niro showed his potential tossing a complete game shutout against Cincinnati May 16. Miami's staff is inexperienced, but if Niro is able to stabilize the rotation the RedHawks will be in much better shape.
What is the most important series on Miami's schedule?
KJ: The most important series for RedHawks this season will occur on the road, after most Miami seniors will have donned their caps and gowns; this is none other than the May 15-17 series at Kent State. Miami will have the opportunity to solidify a spot in the MAC tournament and set a tone of success against the Golden Flashes-last year's champions. Each team will be looking to enter the tournament on a high note, and the possibility that this series may be a preview of a tournament match-up only adds to the excitement.
BG: Ordinarily I would pick a chief conference series but I'm going to say the DeMarini Invitational at the very beginning of the season in Tempe, Ariz. Miami will play three games against top ten opponents, including back-to-back National Champion Arizona State. The odds are clearly stacked against the RedHawks in each of these three match-ups, but a strong showing here could be a springboard for the rest of the season. What better confidence booster to start the season is there than beating the defending national champs in their backyard?
Where will Miami finish in the MAC?
KJ: Miami, graduating former top starters John Ely and Connor Graham, will need two of their hurlers to emerge as solid starting pitchers. They will be looking to put pressure on opponents early and often with a powerful offense. The pitchers should be able to fall back on solid run support, but also one of the conference's best defenses and a very solid bullpen. Seniors Bobby Oberschlake and Steve Antoniotti should be able to keep a vast majority of the leads they inherit leading to wins for Miami's starters. This should enable the RedHawks to finish in the top five again and make a return trip to the MAC tournament.
BG: I think the 'Hawks will finish third in the MAC East and fifth overall, but that's truly a shot in the dark. I say that only because the MAC is wide open and is anyone's game. With no single dominant team in the conference, the RedHawks could shock opponents and finish on top; however, some of the question marks heading into the season could become glaring holes that doom their season. Miami will have to compete with last year's conference champion, Kent State and Ohio, for the MAC East crown while Western Michigan could rebound emphatically from a disappointing season last year to claim the West title. If Miami can find a way to replace pitchers John Ely and Connor Graham, the Red and White can realistically be headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.