Hurricanes looking to ‘shock the college baseball world’ in J.D. Arteaga’s first season as coach

CORAL GABLES — This is not last year’s Miami Hurricanes team.

While every college baseball team has to deal with yearly turnover, this year’s Miami squad enters the season looking drastically different than the 2023 team. It starts with the man in the dugout: new coach J.D. Arteaga, who will make his head coaching debut against New Jersey Institute of Technology at Mark Light Field at 7 p.m. on Friday.

“I’m excited about this team,” Arteaga said.

“I’m excited about the options this roster gives us. A lot of guys, a lot of moving parts. A lot of guys that can play different positions. … I think you’re going to find this will be an exciting team to watch. A team that’s going to play hard. Don’t have too many big names right now. There’s a lot of new names. But I promise you before they’re done here, they’re going to leave their mark on this program.”

The first-year coach who spent two decades as an assistant gets the reins this year, taking over after Gino DiMare’s five-year tenure. Arteaga is only the third Miami head coach since 1994.

“It was never a plan of mine, right? It wasn’t my goal, to be the head coach here,” Arteaga said. “I just came in, showed up every day and did my job and tried to win for a program that I love. Whatever role I have, I wouldn’t do it any different. It’s just a blessing to be able to sit here in front of you guys and be the head coach.”

Arteaga’s team is missing several of the key contributors from the last few seasons. Prodigious slugger Yohandy Morales is in the pros, as are key pieces of the lineup like first baseman C.J. Kayfus, outfielder Zach Levenson and shortstop Dominic Pitelli. Those four hitters combined for 60 of UM’s 122 home runs last year and 173 of their 441 RBIs last season.

All-American closer Andrew Walters also got drafted, and key starter Karson Ligon transferred to Mississippi State, opening up a spot in the rotation and in the most important bullpen role.

Miami addressed those holes by bringing in 12 freshmen and six transfers for this season. Several of them are expected to play key roles this season.

Daniel Cuvet, a freshman infield prospect who chose Miami over going pro after the Pittsburgh Pirates picked him in the 2023 draft, has drawn rave reviews. UM pitcher Gage Ziehl said Cuvet has “some of the most pop I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“(Cuvet) has been very impressive and has kind of lived up to the hype of what he’s supposed to be,” Arteaga said. “He’s one of those names you’re going to be very, very familiar with in a very quick amount of time.”

The Hurricanes also expect big contributions from transfers J.D. Urso, an infielder who arrived from the University of Tampa after hitting .374 with a 1.036 OPS last season, and outfielder Lucas Costello, who transferred from Wake Forest after hitting .288 with an .862 OPS for the College World Series semifinalists.

On the mound, transfers Herick Hernandez, a Hialeah native who transferred from Miami-Dade College, and Drew Dwyer, a seventh-year pitcher playing for his fourth school, will be big contributors. Hernandez is slated to pitch Sunday against NJIT, and Dwyer is penciled in as the Hurricanes’ closer.

Miami also returns key contributors like second baseman Blake Cyr, who broke onto the scene last year and was named a consensus freshman All-American, and Ziehl, who begins his second season as Miami’s Friday night starter.

After a second consecutive exit in regionals and the massive offseason turnover, the Hurricanes are not expected to be among the nation’s top teams in Arteaga’s first year. They are unranked in major college baseball polls, and they were picked to finish fourth in the ACC Coastal division. But that doesn’t change Miami’s goals for this year.

“Just to win,” Cyr said when asked what he was looking forward to. “Just to play together as a team and really to show everyone how hard we’ve been working. Really kind of to shock the college baseball world is what I’m really looking forward to.”