Javi Salas previews FAU, Duke and recaps weekend

Javi Salas previews FAU, Duke and recaps weekend


After one of the most exciting wins in recent Canes history, the bats went cold for a series loss against #2 Clemson. Newly engaged Cane alum Javi Salas, who threw the 23rd perfect game in D1 baseball history, joined the CanesInSight Podcast to recap the week and look ahead to this week’s games. Below is a summary of our conversation with Javi:

On Thursday’s walk-off win: I'm not speaking in hyperbole. That was probably one of the best pitched baseball games I've seen at Mark Light in a really long time by Gage Ziehl. Absolutely tremendous. The 15 strikeouts, complete game, accentuated by that Jack Scanlon walk-off home run. That game had everything. It was a tremendous game.

On Gage Ziehl’s 15-K performance: What’s great about Gage is he gives you a chance to win every Friday night. We keep talking about what the pitching staff is. For the better part of the season, it's been the weaker spot compared to the offense. What Gage did on Friday was absolutely spectacular.

Clemson comes ranked #2 in the nation, #1 in the RPI. The weekend before, they had scored 40 runs. So not only holding them at bay, but going nine innings. How many nine inning games do we see anymore?. What Gage Ziehl did showed a total bulldog mentality.

Look, I'm not a strikeout pitcher. I never was. I don't know the feeling that he was in that zone. I was a ground ball guy, but he was making guys look silly. It was fastball, sliders, changeups, you name it, he had it going for him. It's just taking all the punches and understanding he's pitching in a nail-biter game. He couldn't make any mistakes.

On Jack Scanlon: We talked early in the year to Coach Gutierrez and I remember him saying they had 1A and 1B in Perez and Scanlon. It was the perfect situation where they had a right-handed hitting Perez, a left-handed hitting Scanlon, and they could platoon them. We’ve seen Jack Scanlon take that starting position, grab the bull by the horns and solidify himself as the everyday catcher for the Canes.

He's hitting over 300, does a great job behind the plate, good thrower of the baseball. This guy was a big-time prospect when he committed to Oregon as a high school senior. So we waited a little bit to see what we had in Jack Scanlon, but he's proving everybody right right now in terms of his play.

Ninth inning of a really tight ball game, #2 team in the country. Hits one off the parking garage. And then we have the drama. They celebrate at home plate. They take off his shirt and the umpires go inside. There was no angle, man. There was no way that they were going to overturn that call. Come on. How would we ever think about going back on that moment?

But credit to the kid. He got a really good pitch to hit. That was a tough Clemson closer. He was throwing hard. He turned that fastball around. I've seen some shots, I've seen Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal. That ball looked like it just disappeared into the night from my vantage point. It was one of the cooler home runs. It looked like a scene from The Natural, man, the ball kind of hitting off the lights, disappearing, no idea where it goes. The stadium goes into pandemonium.

On Rafe Scheslinger’s start on Friday: Rafe kept us in the game, similar to Gage. He kept taking Clemson's best shot. On the offensive side, Miami left a lot of guys on base. But Rafe kept pitching. He got stronger as the game went on. I was sitting behind home plate in that seventh inning. He's throwing fastballs at 94, 95, hit 96 in the seventh inning. Coach Arteaga and Coach Gutierrez must be encouraged by seeing that.

Pitching is one of those things that's very contagious. I remember being in a starting rotation. My rotation was stacked when I played. You go out there, you're sitting on the bench. Rafe's keeping book the night before he pitches. He’s keeping Gage’s stats. You want to go out there and do the same thing.

He had a rough first and second inning. Clemson got him a little bit, a couple of base hits. But like they always say with good starters, you got to get him early, right before he gets comfortable. Once he settled into the game, it became a totally different ball game.

On whether Rafe is a potential pro: Absolutely. What we're seeing more and more at the pro level is, “Do you have swing and miss stuff?” Because what we're seeing is guys trying to lift the ball, trying to hit the ball gap-to-gap. What Rafe can do is he hides the ball so well. He's a funky lefty with a different arm slot. We've had a lot of those come through.

He reminds me a lot of Carson Palmquist. I think Carson's stuff was a little more advanced at this time in his career. But Rafe hasn't really thrown a lot. He threw 30-something innings last year. So it's his first time as a starter. This is his sixth or seventh start. He's gotten better. He'd like the results to be a little better. But we're looking at ERAs across the country. Guys are hitting the ball all over the yard. So a 3-2 game on Thursday night, a 3-2 game on Friday night, really close, really well-pitched games. That's exactly what you want to see from Miami starting pitchers.

On the offense slumping: We've seen two weekends now where Miami's offense has lagged behind the pitching. It's a whole lineup thing. We haven't seen the guys getting at the top of the order getting on base as much. Villegas and Cyr have struggled a little bit. Cuvet, his average for the first time as a freshman dips under .400. Jason Torres, still hitting the cover off the ball. And he's probably the most consistent offensive player for the Hurricanes right now.

But we're just seeing really well-pitched games. The conference is stacked. I'm looking at the rankings right now. There's eight ACC ranked teams in the top 25, which is unbelievable. So you look at a tough conference, coupled with the ups and downs of the baseball season, coupled with a really young lineup, and you're just going to get these fluctuations week-to-week.

On Jason Torres: As a pitcher, what scares me most about Jason Torres is he's sort of a free swinger. We see the strikeout numbers a little elevated on the back of his baseball card. But he can swing at everything. If you're in the zone a lot, he's going to make contact. He's going to hit the ball hard. The thing he does better than anybody is he makes really, really solid contact.

He's a very advanced hitter, too. We see him go the other way, drives the ball to right center field. He's not afraid to take the single, knowing that he's going to get his pitch later in the game. He’s the guy who always has the green light.

You never want to fight the crazy guy. That's kind of like Jason Torres. You don't want to throw strikes to the guy who swings at everything. As a pitcher, you've got to knock Jason Torres off his game. Use that free swing against him. But his hand-eye coordination, his bat-to-ball skills are some of the best I've seen in college in the last couple of years.

On playing on the road: Let's hit the most important stuff off the top. RPI, you get more points for playing on the road. That's really how you see the RPI jumps. The top two teams in RPI are Clemson and Florida State. North Carolina's #4. So Miami's got plenty of opportunity. They go to Duke this weekend. They got Florida State next weekend on the road. So you got two ranked opponents on the road back-to-back weekends, six games.

Miami's got to figure out a way to win these series. Paying on the road is tough. But it’s also a fun environment. You think about the freshmen and sophomores on this team. They haven't taken a lot of road trips. This is where the team bonds together. You're going to go to some hostile places. The camaraderie, the team building this is where the team really sets itself apart. This is where you see the leaders who make sure everyone stays in check.

You have nowhere to go on the road, you have your bus, guys are eating in the lobby, you're meeting people's parents. It's a cool environment for the Canes. There's no shortage of ranked opponents left on the schedule. We're going to face the #9 team in Duke this weekend in Durham. The Duke program has really taken off the last couple of years. They've done some really good things, a couple of Super Regional appearances. We're sitting at 6-6 right now. It's anyone's guess who can win the Coastal. Virginia Tech's separated themselves a little bit in the standings, but with eight ranked teams in the conference, this conference is as loaded as it's ever been. Winning a series against Duke will really be a great step forward for the Canes.

On the FAU game: The most important thing is they found their midweek starter in Ashton Crowther. That was the biggest question mark week-to-week: “Who was going to start, how much could they give us?” It’s nice for JD and Coach Gutierrez to pencil Crowther’s name in knowing that's going to be your starter.

We lost to FAU in Boca already earlier this year. You've got to go up there and win that game. There's no more excuses for these midweek games. If you ask JD, you ask Coach Fenster, you ask Coach Gutierrez, they'll tell you the same thing. With a conference as tough as it is on the weekends, you've got to use these midweek games to prime yourself. Start playing good baseball, good baserunning, good defense, good pitching. All the little things, all the little fundamentals that are going to really show up on the weekends, you've got to take care of them here in the midweeks.

FAU is a tough ball club. They've given me plenty of trouble in my career. I definitely know that going up to Boca is no easy task, but it's a game that the Canes have to win.

On the team’s baserunning: In today's day and age of baseball, the long ball has kind of eradicated the need to be really fundamentally sound baserunning-wise. It’s at every single level. I hear Harold Martinez (former UM star and Braddock head coach) talking about it at the high school level. You never hear about good baserunners because they know what they're doing. But bad baserunning blunders really get magnified in close ballgames.

On Thursday night, Miami gets picked off on second base on an inside move. The pitcher lifts his leg, inside move. The runner takes a secondary lead thinking the pitch is going home, gets picked off there. And then on Friday night, we have the slip around third base. I know Coach Fenster was initially holding up Lucas Costello and then he starts waving him around and Lucas face planted rounding third base. The fundamentals of baseball reveal themselves in close games.

The last couple of weeks, I've definitely seen the CanesInSight message boards. They've been active and baserunning has been a hot topic. I'm sure it will continue as long as there are blunders. But it's more of a widespread thing than just in Miami. One of JD’s big focus areas this year was “We're going to be a more aggressive team on the base path. We're going to try and steal some bases.” The other side of the coin is we need to probably get a little smarter on the base paths and not give away outs. Outs are so valuable. Unfortunately, in some of these close games, these baserunning blunders get magnified a little bit.

On Antonio Jimenez: It's tough, man. I was a freshman that struggled as a pitcher. As a hitter, you're seeing so much advanced stuff. You're asking a lot of a freshman to play a premier position. He's starting every day at shortstop.

If you can get anything out of Antonio Jimenez in terms of walks, good situational hitting, moving runners over, bunting guys over, that's what we need to see more of out of him in the ninth spot.

He's had his struggles this year. That's to be expected as a freshman. We didn't expect him to be a Gold Glove shortstop or hitting Nomar Garciaparra right out of the chute. But I've seen some really good things out of him. He's an aggressive ballplayer. He looks the part and he's physically imposing. He's 6’1, looks every bit of 200. Development is not linear. But at some point, we need to see that trajectory sort of change and say, “Okay, this is the guy for the future.” These next couple weeks, we'll find out a lot about him.

On what he wants to see this week: I just want to see some wins, man. I want to see Miami go into Duke and win that series. The last time we were at Duke, Dom Pitelli hits a Grand Slam on Friday night and they took the series.

You look at up and down the standings and you realize there's no easy weekends. There's no team that you can hide from. Miami should want that challenge.

I've had a ton of fun watching this team this year. We're looking at a team that's 15-12, 6-6 in the conference. The wins and losses might not jump out at you, but watching these games has been so fun as a fan, as a former player, watching the comebacks and watching this team not give up.

There have been some lumps in the road. I keep saying that those are going to happen with a young ballclub. But I want to see some winning baseball. I know that it's in there. I know this team is capable of it. And I just hope it carries on to this weekend.

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Comments (3)

Duke is 6-6 in conference but I think their 6 losses are by a combined like 8-10 runs. We need big starts from Ziehl and Rafe…because Duke absolutely mashed. Friday we are going to see one of the best arms in the country. So we can’t afford to squander any mistake Duke makes or run ourselves out of innings.
Duke is 6-6 in conference but I think their 6 losses are by a combined like 8-10 runs. We need big starts from Ziehl and Rafe…because Duke absolutely mashed. Friday we are going to see one of the best arms in the country. So we can’t afford to squander any mistake Duke makes or run ourselves out of innings.
Duke moves around their ace in the rotation. Sometimes he will pitch on Saturday.
Need a series win here... We usually have more fans than Duke has when we play in that minor league park.