Michael Jordan has made a lot of things iconic during his lifetime, but championship three-peats, Most Valuable Player awards and No. 23 are among the most notable.
Twenty-five years and two days after Jordan’s first minor league baseball game, it was only fitting that Cole Gnetz, Miami baseball’s own No. 23, clinched the RedHawks’ first-ever three-peat of the Joe Nuxhall Classic and claimed the tournament’s MVP award.
With Wednesday night’s title game against Cincinnati knotted in the ninth, the senior reliever entered and held the Bearcats scoreless for the final three frames of an 11-inning thriller. Gnetz (W, 1-0) earned the 12-8 win, while striking out seven batters and allowing just two hits and two walks.
The victory marks the third consecutive “Nuxy” crown for the RedHawks, after Miami was held titleless for the first eight years of the annual tournament. It advanced to the finals with a 7-6 disposal of Wright State at Marge Schott Stadium on Tuesday.
The two wins also allowed the RedHawks to pass the 1972 Miami team for best start in program history at 26-6 (7-2 Mid-American).
Unable to record a hit through Wednesday’s first three innings, the RedHawks broke a 0-0 tie in the top of the fourth.
Redshirt junior second baseman Jordan Stephens doubled to right-center field, plating junior shortstop Will Vogelgesang. Miami scored two more in the inning on RBI singles by redshirt freshman first baseman Reid Norberg and senior left fielder Mackay Williams.
Both teams scored in the sixth, as the RedHawks tacked on three more runs before Cincinnati (14-18, 5-4 American) got its first in the bottom of the inning.
MU senior starter Bailey Martin pitched six innings of six-hit, two-walk baseball. He allowed just one unearned run and tallied nine punchouts.
With the score sitting at 6-1 MU in the bottom of the seventh, the Bearcats started their comeback with three runs of their own. Miami responded with two tallies in the top of the eighth, but Cincinnati tied the contest at eight with four bottom-of-the-eighth runs.
Freshman left-hander Tyler Bosma, a typically reliable reliever for MU head coach Danny Hayden, struggled over 1.2 innings. He allowed seven hits and seven runs — all of them earned.
Neither team scored again until the top of the 11th, when a Vogelgesang single sparked a RedHawks’ two-out rally.
Junior third baseman Landon Stephens followed Vogelgesang’s hit with a base knock of his own. They successfully executed a double steal during Jordan Stephens’ at-bat. He singled into right field to score both runners.
After Jordan Stephens stole second base and scurried to third on a throwing error by the UC catcher, he came home on a single by junior designated hitter Colin Shepherd to make it 11-8. Shepherd crossed home plate when the next hitter, Norberg, doubled.
Gnetz kept the Bearcats off the board in the latter half of the frame to seal the 12-8 victory.
As part of Miami’s season-high 17-hit performance, Jordan Stephens and Norberg each had three hits and three RBIs.
The RedHawks don’t play today, but they travel to Bowling Green for a three-game weekend series against the Falcons. Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m.