Video: Emily Brustoski
To say that the Miami RedHawks (25-15, 11-7 Mid-American) had a good weekend is an understatement.
Not only did Miami baseball top its win total from last season with a 6-1 victory on Saturday, but the ‘Hawks won 4-2 over the rival Ohio Bobcats on Sunday to win the Battle of the Bricks.
“It feels amazing [to win the Battle of the Bricks],” MU’s Sunday starter and Athens native Gus Graham said. “Since I was a freshman, I’ve started against OU three times and I’m 3-0 against them, so I take great pride in that. I get to go back home and talk about how I beat OU three times. I got a lot of slack for going to Miami from my hometown, so it feels good and I’m happy about that.”
Friday was the weekend’s lone dark spot for the RedHawks. They fell behind early and dropped the series-opener 4-3.
As the first batter of the game, OU sophomore shortstop Trevor Hafner hit a line-drive double down the left-field line. Hafner came around to score one out later on a base hit to right field by sophomore designated hitter Tanner Piechnick. The score put the Bobcats up 1-0.
Although Miami loaded the bases in the bottom of the first, the RedHawks wouldn’t get on the scoreboard until the bottom of the third, when they scored three to take a 3-1 lead.
Redshirt first baseman Ross Haffey and junior catcher Hayden Senger drew back-to-back walks to start the inning. Sophomore third baseman Landon Stephens drove Haffey in from second base with an RBI single to left field.
Two batters later, junior left fielder Mackay Williams dropped a bunt single down the first-base line that allowed Senger to come in from third. Miami got its last run of the inning on another bunt – this time, a suicide squeeze by sophomore second baseman Will Vogelgesang that allowed freshman center fielder Parker Massman to score from third.
After three innings, Miami led 3-1.
Ohio cut into its deficit in the fifth, pulling within one with an RBI groundout.
The devastating blow for Miami came in the top of the seventh. After a ground-rule double and a hit-by-pitch put OU runners on first and second, Redshirt freshman catcher Dan McCauley skied a fly ball to deep center field. Dealing with the wind and sun, Massman lost the ball in the elements, allowing the hit to drop and the Bobcats to score two runs to take a 4-3 lead.
That would be it for both offenses, as Ohio held on for a 4-3 series-opening win.
“I think that’s where we lost the game there – the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth inning,” MU head coach Danny Hayden said. “We just didn’t put pressure on them offensively at all, and you go that long without putting any heat on a team, they’re going to find a way to get back in the game and they did.”
MU sophomore starter Spencer Mraz (L, 4-2) pitched 6.1 innings. He struggled with command for much of the day and was tagged with the four earned runs.
“I didn’t have my best stuff,” Mraz said, “but you’ve got to compete with what you have. That’s really what I did.”
The Bobcats jumped ahead early in Game Two as well. With runners on the corners, Ohio ran a delayed steal to perfection, with the runner coming home from third as Senger’s throw travelled toward second base.
Down 1-0 and looking for momentum, Miami loaded the bases with three consecutive singles to start the bottom of the third. Senger hit a sacrifice fly to score the runner from third, before Stephens ripped an RBI double down the right-field line. That put the RedHawks up 2-1 – an advantage they’d never lose.
Miami went on to add four more runs, including three RBIs from senior shortstop Adrian Texidor, while holding the Bobcats scoreless the rest of the way to capture a 6-1 victory.
Texidor finished 3-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs. He also scored a run.
“It was a good day,” Texidor said. “I just did everything I can to help my team win. I felt confident.”
Junior starter Zach Spears (W, 3-3) went seven strong innings, while only giving up one run on five hits. He walked four, but struck out eight.
“It was really good to see from Zach because he battled really hard to do it” Hayden said. “Last week, I think he went out there and he threw. He didn’t have to pitch out of much trouble or anything. He got into a couple jams today – three or four times he had to pitch out of guys in scoring position with one out, or one time, I think, with nobody out.”
For the third straight game, Miami started out behind on the scoreboard in Game Three, when OU junior first baseman Rudy Rott hammered a solo dinger well over the right-field fence in the top of the first inning.
After serving up the home run ball to Rott, MU’s senior starter Gus Graham settled in quite nicely. He would retire the next 20 OU hitters.
“I knew that I had to really come back, and obviously I was missing up [in the strike zone] a little bit, and getting behind in counts,” Graham said. “I realized that I had to re-engage, step off the mound and came back into it. I’m proud that I was able to come back and do that.”
The Bobcats 1-0 lead would last until the fifth, when Miami took control and struck for three runs in the bottom half of the frame.
With runners on first and second, Haffey singled to right field to bring home the runner from second and provide the RedHawks with their first run of the ballgame.
After a Senger sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third, Stephens came through again, this time with a two-run single to right field to put Miami in front 3-1.
OU freshman center fielder Sebastian Fabik cut the Red and White’s lead to 3-2 with an RBI single in the top of the eighth. It was Fabik’s only hit of the series.
Trying to support Graham’s quest for a second straight complete game, Miami added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI double to deep left-center field by Redshirt sophomore right fielder Kyle Winkler.
That score made it 4-2 and allowed Graham to put the finishing touches on another complete game and another MAC series win for Miami.
After pitching a complete game against Northern Illinois on April 22, Graham (W, 4-0) went the distance again, giving up only two runs on three hits. He displayed excellent command by not walking a batter, and struck out a career-high 11.
“I felt really good,” Graham said. “All three of my pitches were there. It was kind of the same thing as last week. This week I always had a little bit of motivation with OU being here, but I just knew what I had to do to help us win a baseball game. I just carried that throughout the game.”
Miami’s series win comes one week after it dropped its first series of the season to NIU.
The RedHawks are now 4-2 against the Bobcats this season.
Miami will be right back on McKie Field at Hayden Park today, as they take on the visiting Cincinnati Bearcats (22-19). The RedHawks beat UC 9-8 during the Joe Nuxhall Classic. Today’s first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.