In their first taste of Mid-American Conference play, the baseball team (5-16) were on the losing end of a three game series at home against Western Michigan University (11-9). Despite winning the first game 4-3 in extra innings, Miami fell short in the final two by scores of 8-4 and 4-0.
The RedHawks came into the three-game set on a three-game skid, with a 3-7 mark over their last 10 games. Western Michigan, losing once before the series, posted a 7-3 record before seeing conference action.
Game one gave the ‘Hawks a familiar feeling as WMU struck in the first inning by way of a two-out, solo home run from senior third baseman Grant Miller, giving the Broncos a 1-0 advantage in the early going.
From then on it was a pitcher’s duel, with both sides vying for a spark as the contest progressed into its later stages. In the top of the sixth, the long ball made another appearance in sophomore-on-sophomore fashion.
This time, it was Western Michigan’s left fielder Nate Grys, touching-them-all with a two run homer off MU’s sophomore starting pitcher Shane Smith. This increased the Broncos’ lead to 3-0.
Luckily, this would be Smith’s last mistake, as the right hander pitched seven innings, giving up three runs, eight hits, while striking out four and walking none.
“We got a good start from Shane,” manager Danny Hayden said. “He’s been consistent, but he was a bulldog today. He was awesome.”
Despite being down, the ‘Hawks weren’t out, though they needed runs. Answering the call for MU was the infield duo of Redshirt junior Ross Haffey and Redshirt senior Adam Yacek.
Haffey singled to left field to lead off the inning and found himself in scoring position after a WMU wild pitch. Yacek then ripped a single up the middle to drive home Haffey to make the score 3-1.
This sequence gave Miami the momentum they needed, and their fight for momentum came into fruition in the bottom of the eighth.
With runners at the first and third base and no one out, catcher Hayden Senger had an RBI bunt single to make the game 3-2. The score became 3-3 as sophomore centerfielder Dallas Hall scored off a wild pitch.
The comeback was complete and the game headed to extra innings. The RedHawks were looking for a hero, and they found one in Steve Sada.
In the bottom of the tenth with Hall at second base, the senior second baseman singled to left field to give the ‘Hawks their first conference win — snapping their three-game losing streak in the process.
“The kid [Steve Sada] is a career worker. There’s not a guy you would point to on our team, before Steve, in terms of who the hardest worker out there is,” Hayden said. “And for him to get that hit, man, I feel good for him.”
Due to a schedule change, the subsequent pair of games were played as a doubleheader.
The previous game’s success was not replicated in the final two games against the Broncos, as MU fell short 8-4 and 4-0.
“Today’s doubleheader was frustrating. Offensively, we have to do more to stay in games,” Hayden said.
Game two started out with a bang for the ‘Hawks. Two runs were scored in the bottom of the first, including an RBI double from freshman designated hitter J.T. Stone to give the home team an early two-run advantage.
Back and forth from both teams left the score 3-2 in favor of Miami, then Western Michigan seized control of the game and the series at the top of the sixth inning.
WMU poured it on in the following three frames, scoring six runs. Sophomore shortstop Connor Smith’s two run triple made the score 8-3 favoring the Broncos in the top of eighth proving to be the proverbial knockout punch of the doubleheader.
Miami starting pitcher Zach Spears took the loss for the day. The sophomore gave up four runs — three earned, one unearned — on seven hits. The lefthander struck out two hitters while walking three.
Danny Hayden believes the collapse was a result of the ‘Hawks’ inability to make WMU uncomfortable by bringing runners home.
“Offensively, we have to do more to get into a baseball game, to put pressure on the other dugout. Western Michigan played a fairly clean day of baseball today. But, if you’re putting pressure on them every inning, maybe you make them crack a bit more.”
The finale saw senior pitcher Brad Schwartz take the mound, but from the jump the game went downhill. WMU scored two runs in the first inning via a throwing error from Redshirt junior Spencer Dull and a wild pitch from Schwartz.
Western Michigan struck again in the top of the third with two more runs off the bat of junior centerfielder Tanner Allison to make the score 4-0, which was enough to ensure a series victory and a doubleheader sweep.
Next time Miami takes the field will be on Tuesday March 28, as they visit Northern Kentucky University at 3:00 p.m. The two programs will complete their home-and-home series.