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If the No. 12 Hurricanes (25-11, 12-6 ACC) are going to get back on track after losing three of their last four games, the team will likely need to do it without leading hitter Peter O'Brien.
O'Brien, who has a team-high .354 batting average and 10 home runs (no other Cane has more than three homers), broke a bone in his wrist when he was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning of Sunday's game at Virginia Tech. He is in a sling and coach Jim Morris says the normal recovery time for the injury is 4-6 weeks.
However, Morris stops short of ruling him out even for this weekend's FSU series, saying he's hoping the slugger can overcome the pain and be able to play.
"There's a very good chance he won't even make the trip," Morris said. "He got hit in the wrist very bad, has a small crack in his wrist. It's a play-with-pain thing. His hand is swollen, wrist is swollen. Hopefully he'll be back. Talking to trainers I don't think he'll be available this weekend. He has to be able to swing, and the wrist is very important to swing."
There is some good injury news entering the next stretch of games: Rony Rodriguez, who went down with injury after starting 26 games, is expected back. He was out shagging fly balls in practice today.
Rodriguez is hitting .266 with one homer this year, but last season he had a .308 batting average and 13 home runs.
"We're hoping to have Rony back," Morris said. "Rony is taking BP today, the first time (since the injury). We may get Rony back hopefully. We'll see after he swings. Today is the first day he'll swing live in the cages."
Before UM heads to Tallahassee the team faces Stetson tomorrow. Starting for UM in that game is Javi Salas (3-2, 3.08 ERA).
"Stetson is a good ballclub - last year they almost hosted a regional," Salas said. "We have to be ready to play. They're going to give us their best game and we have to come out fighting."
The team's challenge after Stetson is a big one: Trying to take a series at No. 2-ranked Florida State.
Eric Erickson (6-3, 2.91 ERA) will be the Friday night starter, and he's 6-0 in his career against FSU including a 2008 win in middle relief at the College World Series.
"This is a great week coming up for us - we have to stay focused on one game at a time," Erickson said. "Florida State is going to be a challenge, but I kind of know what they're all about. If we play our `A' game we do have the potential to sweep this series. It's just a matter of playing good, consistent baseball."
Salas added, "Last week we didn't come out with the fire we needed, so it'll be a good test for this team to go up and hopefully win the series. What you come here for is to play Florida State in these kinds of games."
The Seminoles have a 29-7 overall record (16-2 in ACC play) and are 17-3 at home.
"We have to play great every series," said Dale Carey, who pointed to inconsistent hitting and fielding as costing the Canes in their losses. "This is a big chance for us in the polls."
FSU has three players batting .345 or better, including top threat James Ramsey who has a team-leading nine home runs and four triples.
Opponents bat just .251 against FSU's pitching staff, which has a 3.59 ERA.
Starters Mike Compton, Brandon Leibrandt and Peter Miller have a combined 14-2 record, and closer Robert Benincasa has been lights-out with a 3-0 record, 10 saves and miniscule 0.79 ERA. He's struck out 32 batters in 22.2 innings while allowing just 12 hits and two earned runs.
A ray of hope for UM?
Florida State dropped its most recent game at BC, 17-6 (the team plays North Georgia tomorrow).
Cane players expect a rowdy crowd at FSU.
"It's going to be a hostile environment - their fans hate us, will be out there in droves and pack the stadium," pitcher Steven Ewing said. "It's going to be loud. Hopefully we can come out with a couple of wins."
Erickson adds that "Pitching there in a series like this might even be better than pitching in the World Series - the overall environment, I mean. In the World Series there are fans from all over the place. But at FSU you're hated; everyone hates you. That makes it fun."
The Canes have struggled since a sweep of North Carolina two weeks ago.
"Against Virginia Tech we didn't have any pump in us (losing two of three last weekend)," infielder Jarred Mederos said. "We swept North Carolina, went up in the rankings big-time, and if we go over there (to FSU) and sweep them like we plan to do then we're really going to be up there in the rankings and hopefully down the road host regionals and super regionals."
Strange things always seem to happen in the FSU series, from near brawls to walkoffs to the Noles refusing to shake hands with the Canes.
So what crazy thing might happen this year?
"I think the two coaches go at it - 3 and Mike Martin," Carey joked.
* Asked what has gone wrong recently for UM, Ewing said, "I wish I could tell you. It's been one of those years. You're excited about playing UNC, wind up sweeping them. It must have been a lack of focus, a letdown after that. We need to maintain more of a level composure throughout games. It's just a mindset people have to have. You can't get too excited about things, too down about things. The name of the game is consistency."
Morris adds that "We played very well against North Carolina, just last weekend against Virginia Tech we pitched really well, did not swing the bat and played good defense. We just didn't hit, put runs on the board. And in the ninth inning we didn't close it out when we needed to close it out."