Miami Hurricanes baseball coach says team will be better than expected


LOCAL MIAMI PLAYERS

Name School Ht. Wt. Class Pos.

Christopher Barr, Royal Palm Beach, 6-1, 180, Fr., 1B-OF

Michael Broad*, Fort Lauderdale-Nova, 5-11, 196, Sr., OF

Alexander Hernandez, Palm Beach Central, 5-8, 170, Jr., Inf.

Vince Kossak, Trinity Christian, 6-0, 186, Sr., RHP

* played for the East Boynton All-Stars.

The University of Miami opens its college baseball season Friday unranked and Jim Morris, beginning his 20th season as coach of the Hurricanes, isn’t happy about it.

“In all honesty, the polls aren’t showing us a lot of respect, which I don’t like,” Morris said. “We have to prove we’re as good as we’ve always been. I think this is the first year since I came to Miami that we haven’t been ranked in the Top 25.”

UM’s absence in the polls isn’t completely unexpected. The Hurricanes ended the 2012 in embarrassing fashion, getting swept out of the Coral Gables Regional in lopsided losses to Stony Brook and Missouri State.

The quick exit snapped Miami’s winning run of 18 consecutive regional tournaments it has hosted dating back to 1990 and kept the Hurricanes out of the College World Series for the fourth consecutive season.

UM also isn’t getting a lot of respect inside the ACC. Last month, the conference’s 12 coaches picked the Hurricanes to finish fourth in the six-team Coastal Division and none picked Miami to win the conference.

“But I think we’re going to have a good club and surprise some people,” Morris said.

The first order of business for Morris after last season was to overhaul the Hurricanes’ entire infield, whose defense was often abysmal in 2012. UM finished last in the ACC and 235th out of 291 teams nationally in fielding percentage (.958) with 98 errors in 59 games.

Among those expected to start Friday’s opener against Rutgers at Mark Light Field are a pair of former Palm Beach County standouts, both of whom should boost UM’s defense.

Alexander Hernandez, a transfer from Palm Beach State College by way of Palm Beach Central, will start at second. Christopher Barr, a freshman and graduate of Royal Palm Beach, likely will start at first base, although he could also see time in the outfield.

Morris said that Hernandez was the Hurricanes’ best player during fall workouts.

“He’s got good hands. He can throw. He’s accurate. Works hard offensively. And he’s a line-drive hitter that can bunt or hit the other way and do a lot of little things,” Morris said. “He’s the type of guy that’s going to win games for you.”

Barr is a slick fielder who helps give Morris the confidence that “our defense is going to be much improved.”

If there is a major worry for Morris, it’s his pitching staff. Two expected starters — senior right-hander Eric Whaley and junior lefty Bryan Radziewski — won’t be ready for the start of the season as they each return from offseason surgery. The bullpen is in flux with no established closer and middle relief roles still being worked out.