Hurricanes Complete 9-inn Scrimmage At Alex Rodriguez Park
CORAL GABLES, Fla. - The University of Miami baseball team officially opened fall practice Thursday afternoon, holding a nine-inning intrasquad scrimmage at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. The Hurricanes – coming off an NCAA record 37th straight trip to NCAA Regionals in 2009 – enter the fall with a 35-man roster consisting of 21 returning players and 14 newcomers.
“We are excited,” head coach Jim Morris said prior to the start of practice. “We have some holes to fill from the number of players we’ve lost the last few years from our 2008 World Series team but I think we have a talented group heading into the fall.”
After stretching and working through some individual drills, the team spent the rest of the afternoon scrimmaging under clear skies and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80’s.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us but we have a lot of good, young players,” Morris said. “We have proven that we can go to Omaha with young players or old players so our goals are very high for this club.”
The `Canes return 17 letterwinners from last year’s 38-22 team, including 2009 All-ACC performers Chris Hernandez, Yasmani Grandal and Scott Lawson. In addition, two-time All-ACC performer Eric Erickson returns after missing the 2009 season rehabilitating from an injury.
Erickson re-joins a pitching staff that returns 84 percent of its innings pitched from last season (446 of 531). All three 2009 weekend starters (Hernandez, David Gutierrez and Iden Nazario) are back, in addition to mid-week starter Jason Santana, veteran reliever Michael Rudman and an impressive sophomore class that includes Daniel Miranda, Travis Miller and Sam Robinson. Taylor Wulf – UM’s set-up man to All-America closer Kyle Bellamy last year – also returns to the back end of the bullpen after missing the second half of the 2009 campaign.
Five players return from the starting lineup. Grandal – a 2009 USA National Team member – will enter the 2010 season as one of the nation’s top catchers after hitting a team-high 16 home runs in 2009. Second baseman Lawson is back for his senior year after leading the team in hitting most of last season while sophomores Harold Martinez, Nathan Melendres and Ted Blackman are all back after productive rookie seasons.
The staff has high hopes for the 13-man incoming class that includes six players selected over the summer in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft. South Florida products Stephen Perez (18th round/Cincinnati Reds) – a switch-hitting infielder out of Gulliver Prep – and E.J. Encinosa (23rd round/Minnesota Twins) – a big right-handed pitcher out of Coral Park High School – headline the group of six draftees in the group.
In total, the incoming class includes 12 players from the state of Florida and eight from South Florida. The group is made up of five infielders, three left-handed pitchers, three right-handed pitchers and two outfielders.
The entire 2009 fall roster consists of six seniors, five juniors, 11 sophomores and 13 freshmen.
With UM’s fall break beginning on Friday, the team will hold a morning practice in lieu of its typical late afternoon session.