As we continue to prepare for the Arizona Wildcats’ first game in the College World Series since 2012, it was time to find out about their first opponent from someone who knows them better than anyone.
1. Miami's lineup is loaded. Who's the guy that's most likely to change a game?
Underwood: C Zack Collins, without a doubt. He's the best hitter in the lineup, one of the best in America, has the most power of anyone, and has a well-trained eye for strike zone judgement. He's hitting .358 with 15 HR and 57 RBI, and those numbers would be larger if teams pitched to him more. He leads the Nation in walks with 72 and has a .538 on-base percentage, a testament to the fact that teams will pitch around Collins if given the chance . If you make a mistake to Collins, there'a good chance the scoreboard is going to change. For Miami's offense, he's the guy.
2. What do you think the Canes will do as far as pitching in Game One?
Underwood: Miami will go with staff ace LHP Michael Mediavilla in the CWS opener. He's a big kid at 6'5" 225lbs, but he has the game of a control pitcher. He'll work 88-91 with the fastball, and his curveball and change-up are both plus pitches. He's 11-1 with a 3.11 ERA on the year, and he's been the ace from day 1. Miami will look to him to get a win and move into the winner's bracket.
The overall pitching plan is the same as it's been all year: Get 6-7 innings from the starter, pass the ball to Freshman All-American Frankie Bartow (6-0, 2.73 ERA in team-high 41 appearances) in the 7th-8th, and then pass the ball to All-American Closer Bryan Garcia (2-0, 1.95 ERA, 18 saves, 13.86 K/9) in the 8th-9th. Bartow throws strikes and has a heavy sinker, and Garcia is Miami's all-time leader in saves with 42. There's not much depth in the bullpen beyond those two, but if Miami can execute the gameplan that I just laid out, that would be a perfect scenario.
3. What's the biggest reason for Miami's prolonged success and reaching Omaha so often?
Underwood: Miami is able to get top talent on the team and has great coaching. The Canes have had 263 players drafted, and 14 1st round picks over the course of the last 35 years. That kind of talent is rare in the world of college baseball, and that is something that sets Miami apart on a yearly basis. No matter when you play Miami, or watch them, there's always guys on the team who will probably be playing in the Majors on the roster.
When you have players of that caliber, the game becomes easier. And the coaching staff of HC Jim Morris (1500+ wins), 3B coach Gino DiMare (recruiting coordinator/coach-in-waiting), and Pitching coach JD Arteaga (former All-American) is as fine a group as you'll find in the world of college baseball. And when you put elite talent with elite coaching, you get the kind of consistency and success that Miami has had over the last 40+ years, including their 25th trip to Omaha for the CWS this year.
4. Saturday game predictions?
Underwood: I think Miami comes out and works the count against the Arizona starter, gets into the bullpen, and takes advantage of their run scoring opportunities. Miami plays stellar defense (.983 fielding percentage, best defense in America), gets a great outing from Mediavilla and is able to get the ball to Bartow and Garcia and close the game for a much-needed opening game win.
Let's call it 6-2 Miami.