To put it simply, this team is good.
Before Sunday’s walk-off single by junior third baseman Landon Stephens, Miami baseball came into the day with the best start in school history (20-5). This feat was accomplished only one other time in Miami’s history (1972).
The sweep over Eastern Michigan (5-22-1, 0-6 MAC) was the fourth this year, which equals the same amount as the last two season combined.
The majority of the RedHawks’ offense came in the latter half of games, with 13 runs scored in the sixth inning or later.
The Eagles led 2-0 after three innings on Friday before freshman designated hitter Cole Andrews delivered his third home run of the year. Andrews tied the game in the sixth with a sacrifice fly that scored junior left fielder Kyle Winkler.
The two teams traded runs until the ninth, when EMU relief pitcher Thomas House hit two RedHawks to start off the inning. This brought up Landon Stephens, who singled to left-center field, scoring sophomore Cristian Tejada to end the game.
On Saturday, Miami led 4-0 after two innings before scoring eight unanswered in the last four innings in a 13-3 rout. Junior catcher Cal Elvers led the way, going 3-for-3 with four RBIs. Winkler also had a day, hitting 4-for-6 and driving in one run.
Sunday felt like deja vu for Landon Stephens, as he stood in the right side batter’s box with two outs and two on. Tied at six, Stephens slapped a single to the same spot in left-center to score first baseman Reid Norberg and claim the victory.
Norberg, in just his seventh start, went a perfect 4-for-4 with one RBI and one walk.
While the offensive firepower remained constant, the defense for Miami struggled, registering nine errors on the weekend and six on Sunday alone.
“It was probably the worst defensive effort of the season so far,” Miami head coach Danny Hayden said. “It was a tough day to play baseball. It was cold, windy and I give our guys a lot of credit. They didn’t come in making any excuses, no one was really thrilled with the way we were playing baseball, but our guys knew this was going to be a dogfight and found a way to win it.”
Second in MAC, but remain the best
Although Ball State sits atop the Mid-American Conference (MAC) standings at 4-0 in league play, Miami holds the best overall record in the conference at 21-5. The RedHawks are tied for second at 5-1 with Central Michigan. Miami doesn’t face the Chippewas until the last weekend of the regular season.
Miami gets national attention
Hayden’s ballclub is making its way up the national rankings, as the team is 31st of 299 in Division I baseball with a .295 batting average. The team also is 32nd in on base percentage at .399. The bullpen sits in 54th, but leads the MAC in team ERA (3.66).
Starting pitcher Jack Corbell ranks 24th in the NCAA and leads the MAC with a 1.21 earned run average. The senior is 4-0 in his seven starts with 26 strikeouts, while holding opponents to a .207 batting average.
Kyle Winkler holds the 59th position in all of Division 1 with a .490 on base percentage. Winkler hits .321 on the year, has 16 RBIs, and is a perfect 11-11 in stolen bases.
Landon Stephens = clutch
All three of Stephens’ walk-offs have come when the game is tied at 6. His first came on March 16 versus St. Bonaventure. The junior’s four home runs rank second in the MAC, while he sits seventh in RBIs with 23.
This isn’t the first time a RedHawk has had three walk-offs in a season, as catcher Hayden Senger did that last season. Senger now plays in the New York Mets farm system for its Single-A Columbia Fireflies.
“He [Landon] was joking around that we had Hayden Senger who hit a bunch of walk-off hits last year,” Hayden said. “We like trying to get [Stephens] to the plate with the game on the line. If we can get him to the plate with the go-ahead run on, he seems to come through just about every time.”
The RedHawks return to play Wednesday at Hayden Park versus Northern Kentucky University. Miami took down the Norse at the Bill Aker Baseball Complex 16-1 on March 13. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.