12 Dec 2021 | 02:00 | Baseball
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The regular season is over and the Miami Hurricanes are focused on their conference.
The Canes (32-17, 20-15 ACC) are the No. 4 seed in the 2021 Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Championship and the top team in Pool D, joined by No. 5 Florida State (29-21, 20-16) and No. 9 Duke (28-20, 16-17).
“It’s a huge excitement to be back here for the ACC tournament,” infielder Anthony Vilar said. “Last year, we weren’t able to do it because of COVID but I remember freshman year that it just feels like playoff baseball, and I love that. Now’s the time for playoff baseball. Now’s the time to turn everything up so we’re excited for those two pool play games.”
Miami is set to open play in the 2021 ACC baseball tournament at 11 a.m. on Thursday against Duke. The Hurricanes will face Florida State on Friday at 3 p.m. to conclude pool play.
As the highest seed in its pool, Miami needs to beat the winner of Wednesday’s game between the Blue Devils and Seminoles in order to advance to the semifinals. The tournament format allows the Canes to set themselves up ahead of their pool games.
“You get to see the other teams play first,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “We know we’re playing Duke, so it will dictate some things of how we use our staff in terms of who starts. But we need to win games. You need to win games. We’re not going to go into any game and just save guys. That’s not the case at all because we need to win games. We’d like to win this tournament, but the most important game right now is Duke.”
Miami swept the Blue Devils earlier this season, but Duke is one of the hottest teams in the ACC. The Blue Devils closed out the regular season on an eight-game winning streak.
“Duke’s always a good team and they always play us tough,” infielder Alex Toral said. “They’re in their home state here so they should have a good fan base and it should be a good game.”
While there is plenty of excitement surrounding a rematch with the rival Seminoles, Miami’s players are locked in on their game with Duke
“It’s always exciting to play against them because it’s a rivalry game with FSU. We’re just trying to forget about what happened in the season and come out on Friday ready to play,” Vilar said. “Right now we are focused on Duke. Our goal is to leave the pool play 2-0 and we can only do that if we beat Duke first, so that’s where our minds are right now.”
“All the guys are really looking forward to playing them and getting a little payback but we’ve got to stay on Duke and make sure we win that game first,” infielder Raymond Gil added. “Our team is very excited to compete in the ACC tournament and hopefully we run into some teams there that we lost to during the season because we want to get another shot at them.”
The Hurricanes have won one ACC Baseball Championship since joining the conference in 2005, as Miami claimed the conference title in 2008. But the Canes believe they have a great opportunity to add another ACC championship in 2021.
“I think if we get out of our bracket, we put ourselves in a good position to move forward and try to win the ACC tournament for the first time in over 10 years,” Toral said. “We came here looking to play four games and win and that’s what we are going to try to do.”
Winning the ACC Baseball Championship would give Miami the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. It also means the Hurricanes have stayed hot entering the 2021 postseason.
“Momentum and confidence play a big part and in baseball, especially when everyone’s hot and hitting good with how our pitchers have been pitching,” Vilar said. “They’ve been pitching really well so they’re playing with momentum and confidence and so are we, as hitters, so we are just looking to keep that going this week.”
“We’re moving up in the rankings lately and we’re playing well,” Toral added. “I think if we can continue that and make a deep run into the ACC tournament, we’ll set ourselves up in a better position moving into the regional. Playing well at the ACC Tournament will also boost confidence for our whole team: pitchers, defenders, hitters. I think if we can get it rolling on all cylinders, I think that we’re going to be dangerous going into a regional.”