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Underdog Canes team surprises experts, opponents

6/15/2006

Miami Hurricanes
Record: 41-22
How They Got Here: Won Oxford Super Regional in three games; Won Lincoln Regional in three games
CWS History: 22 trips to Omaha, last in 2004; four championships, last in 2001
Coach: Jim Morris (602-218-3, 13th season)

Scouting the Hurricanes: "This isn't a typical Miami powerhouse team. They're in a good regional, not having to see Nebraska, but Jim Morris' teams have a tendency to play better late, anyway.

"Miami reminds me of Florida State because FSU is so tough at home, and they figure out a way to win. Miami has really, really good ballplayers, and they're young with Weeks, [Dennis] Raben and [Yonder] Alonso. Weeks is very special; his hands are so fast, he runs well and he works the count in certain situations. [Catcher Eddy] Rodriguez is a much better player this year than last year. Defensively, he's been good, but he's a better hitter now.


"All the right-handed hitters are pull, and all the left-handed hitters are spray. You can pitch one way to Rodriguez and [Danny] Valencia. Weeks, Alonso, Raben and Jay, each of those guys you pitch different to. If you give them an opening, they bust right through it.

"You have to play great baseball. A normal team might score one run, [but] Miami will score six.

"To me, their best player is Giles. He's a good runner with a flat bat in the zone who can hit to all fields. You need to keep Weeks off the bases; man, he can fly. He doesn't look fundamentally [sound on defense], but he makes every play and has range that's unbelievable. Don't let Alonso get extended because he looks to pull. Jay doesn't look like anything special but he's a tough out. If you can throw upper 80s, you can get in on him. And Jay is super in center.

"On the mound they don't have a Friday night guy. Maine is the closest thing to it. I like Maine. He [throws] 88-92, [has a] good breaking ball with some feel and he attacks the zone. After that it really drops off. Obviously Perez is a stud in the bullpen; it's an eight-inning game with him, but he can be wild. [Andrew] Lane, Danny Gil and [Jon] McLean is a good mix-match bullpen, so they can beat anybody late on any day. Miami is going to be exposed on the mound in a longer series. Against the Hurricanes, [you have to be] aggressive and make them throw offspeed stuff for strikes by going after fastballs."

Omaha Outlook: Miami wasn't ranked in the preseason or for much of the regular season, and Morris played that card often to fire up his players. He brought his 2003 team to Omaha under similar circumstances. Morris helped freshmen Weeks, Raben and Alonso develop into legitimate hitters and continually manipulated his pitching staff to get leads to Perez. Then Miami did something no Morris-coached Hurricanes squad ever had: won a super regional on the road. He'll keep telling the players they're the underdogs in Omaha, and they are -- decidedly. But don't be surprised if they string together another upset or two before returning as a powerhouse next year.

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.