Miami and Arizona State are indisputably two of the most successful programs in modern college baseball history.
Each have been regulars not just in regionals, but in the College World Series over the last several decades, and each has an impressive roster of MLB alumni as good as just about any in college baseball.
But in 2018, each also hit a speed bump which brought a streak to an end.
For the Hurricanes, a 31-27 overall record and relatively light postseason resume ended their streak of 44 consecutive regional appearances, which was the longest such streak of postseason appearances in any NCAA sport. The fact that they were one of the first teams left out of the field of 64 probably only served to add insult to the injury.
Arizona State, meanwhile, fell out of regional contention early in the season and struggled to a 23-32 overall record with an 8-22 mark in Pac-12 play, ending their mind-boggling 54-year streak of seasons with at least 30 wins.
Given that we’re talking about Miami and ASU here, it’s only a matter of time before these programs get back to their winning ways, but what are the chances that that time comes in 2018?
For Miami, it’s all about what they get from their offense. Last year, they hit just .231/.343/.333 as a team. The team’s leading hitter, Carl Chester, hit .281, and only one player, Romy Gonzalez, had more than five homers on the season (he had 11). They were shutout twice in their series loss to Florida early in the season, and while there’s no real shame in struggling to score runs against the team that would eventually win the national title, it really was a harbinger of things to come.
The 2018 Hurricanes might be one of those rare cases where it’s a positive development that they’re going to be pretty young on offense, as it gives them a chance for a fresh start. They brought in a heralded recruiting class this fall, and it’s expected that many of those new faces will step into big roles right away. Gonzalez, with his 11 home runs, will also return, as will Michael Amditis, who was slated to get most of the reps behind the plate last year before going down due to injury six games into the 2017 season.
The pitching side of things looks solid on paper. Jeb Bargfeldt was outstanding last season, Gregory Veliz has incredible stuff and was consistent a year ago, Evan McKendry looks ready for a bigger role, and Michael Mediavilla is a four-year contributor who has done it all for the Canes. That’s four quality options for three weekend rotation spots. In the bullpen, the trio of Andrew Cabezas, Frankie Bartow, and Cooper Hammond will give the team experience and depth.
You have to figure that Miami is going to pitch well enough to win quite a few games, and the offense is going to show enough improvement that it’s easy to see them back in a regional in 2018, but the offense would have to make massive strides in order to give anyone much confidence that the Canes will be back to challenging to get to Omaha right away.
For Arizona State, not unlike Miami, a big keys are the continued development of young players and freshmen from an outstanding recruiting class immediately stepping into big roles.
Sophomores Carter Aldrete, Hunter Bishop, and Lyle Lin are three guys who played a ton as freshmen last year who will be big parts of the 2018 team’s success. Bishop hit .301 last year, the second-best average among returning hitters. Lin hit .290 and is coming off of a summer spent on the Cape. Aldrete hit .270 and tied for the team lead in doubles with 12. The Sun Devils’ best returning hitter, however, is a junior in Gage Canning, who hit .332 a year ago with 12 doubles, eight triples, six home runs, and nine stolen bases, all numbers that led the team or were tied for the team lead.
On the mound, senior Eli Lingos is a workhorse who has pitched a ton of innings for ASU throughout his career, and sophomore Spencer Van Scoyoc is a hyper-talented young pitcher who appears ready for prime time. The Devils also have a seemingly never-ending group of pitchers with electric stuff on the staff with guys like Fitz Stadler, Connor Higgins, and Jake Godfrey.
All things considered, ASU is probably in a similar place to that of Miami. Combined with an infusion of talent from a big-time recruiting class, there are enough returning pieces to give one confidence that ASU can get back into regional contention in 2018. Whether or not they become an Omaha contender now or at any time in the near future will have a lot to do with how quickly all of that young talent grows up.
For two of the most successful programs in college baseball history, it’s a mixed bag. Both should be much improved in 2018, but it might be a wait longer than just one year to get back to a place where they’re contending on the sport’s biggest stages.