It was another long series for Miami baseball as the University of South Florida swept a four game series by scores of 5-1, 7-2, 3-2 and 11-2. The RedHawks concluded the season-opening seven game road trip with the four loses.
Much like last week’s series against Arkansas, MU’s offense struggled to get going throughout the series. As a result, the Red and White saw their record dip to 0-7 in its early stages. While the offense was scrambling to find its rhythm, Redshirt junior first baseman Ross Haffey displayed his power potential in the first game by hitting his second home run of the season in as many series.
Not only did the big inning come back to haunt MU in Tampa, FL, but it was the Bulls’ scoring in successive innings — something that they did in all but the 3-2 game — that put the ‘Hawks at a disadvantage from the jump.
USF asserted its dominance in the series in game one, driving home at least one run in the first three frames, putting Miami in a 4-0 hole by the top of the fourth. This would be a deficit that the Red and White could not overcome as they ended up losing the opener 5-1.
Much like last weekend against the Razorbacks, sophomore pitcher Cole Gnetz had problems on the mound for the RedHawks. Despite lasting more than an inning, unlike his last outing, the sophomore still only managed to survive 2.2 innings, giving up four runs — two of those earned — in the process.
Spearheading the offensive attack for South Florida was shortstop Kevin Merrell. The junior went 2-for-3 on the evening with an RBI single, a triple and a stolen base.
In the second game, Miami head coach Danny Hayden saw his team fall into another hole on the box score early — MU was behind 4-0 by the top of the fifth. USF’s sophomore infielder Coco Montes played his part in generating the early lead, plating home two runners with an RBI single through the left side.
Miami scored their only two runs via a seventh inning balk and a ninth inning fielder’s choice coming off the bat of junior outfielder Brooks Urich. It was too little too late, as MU was defeated 7-2 on Friday.
Starting pitcher Zach Spears put in 3.1 innings of work in the first game of the Saturday doubleheader for the ‘Hawks. The number four haunted the sophomore, as he gave up four earned runs on four hits, all while striking out and walking four batters.
USF skipper Mark Kingston, entered the latter game of the double header seeking to maintain his team’s grip on the series. It was mission accomplished for the South Florida contingent, as the Bulls came away with a close 3-2 victory.
The Saturday game was the first time all season that MU had a lead. Urich got the offense going with an RBI single to right field to make the score 1-0. The next batter, Redshirt junior Spencer Dull tripled to right center to increase the ‘Hawks advantage to 2-0.
Senior right handed pitcher Brad Schwartz — who was on track for a complete game, and the RedHawks first victory of the season — ran into trouble, giving up a two-run home run to sophomore outfielder Chris Chatfield. USF Redshirt junior utility player Andres Leal put the game away with a single off of MU’s freshman reliever Spencer Mraz.
In the finale, Miami struck in the opening frame courtesy of Redshirt senior infielder Adam Yacek scoring off of a passed ball. The game soon turned ugly as South Florida scored seven runs over the next four innings, putting the Red and White in a 7-1 hole.
This offensive explosion for USF was made possible by sophomore outfielder Garrett Zech. The outfielder contributed to the four-run fourth inning with a two-run double to left field to make the score 6-1. Miami’s starting pitcher Grant Hartwig, who gave up four runs, five hits, and struck out three batters over 3.2 innings ran into trouble, setting up Zech’s knockout punch. MU would lose the affair 11-2.
Miami’s offense has scored a meager nine runs in its first seven games compared to last season’s mark of 52 runs in the first seven contests. Last year, the RedHawks posted a positive record of 4-3.
The major offensive struggle has been pitching as the ‘Hawks have been lambasted for 49 runs. The starting pitching has lasted an average of 3.1 innings.
Miami makes its home debut at Hayden Park in their next series against Illinois State University. The three game set takes place starting Friday March 3 at 6:00 p.m. as they attempt to bounce back from their worst start to a season since the turn of the century.