By Daniel Taylor, For The Miami Student
Miami University baseball fell on back-to-back nights against Eastern Kentucky University this week. The RedHawks lost 8-6 Tuesday and 6-5 Wednesday.
In Wednesday’s game, the RedHawks (9-33, 7-11 Mid-American Conference) had the opportunity to split with the Colonels (17-24, 8-12 Ohio Valley Conference) after tying the game up late.
In the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 5-5, the RedHawks got a leadoff single from freshman catcher Spencer Dull, followed by a strikeout from senior infielder Ryan Elble.
With one on and one out, a pair of wild pitches advanced Dull to third before junior outfielder Jake Romano was walked.
After a pair of good cuts at base, senior outfielder Matt Honchel walked to load the bases.
With still only one out, Miami’s leading hitter, redshirt sophomore infielder Adam Yacek, stepped up to bat. However, Yacek struck out. Senior infielder Scott Slappey struck out at the next at-bat to end the RedHawk threat and force extra innings.
“The one that gets you is Honchel walking,” manager Danny Hayden said. “He’s the guy you probably want to see put the ball in play. I think he’s the guy that could really hurt him.”
Honchel, a lefty, presented a weakness for senior righty Ben Gullo, who likes to throw a slider that eats right-handed batters alive.
Hayden said with the back-to-back right-handed bats after Honchel, it was a tough matchup that Gullo was able to win.
The RedHawks went 1-2-3 in the tenth and 11th.
EKU started the 11th with a leadoff double, followed by a sacrifice that advanced the runner to third.
Junior outfielder Kyle Nowlin singled home the go-ahead run for the Colonels.
In Tuesday night’s game, EKU exploded for five runs in the fourth to take an 8-3 lead. Miami diminished the Colonel lead to two, but came no closer.
Junior lefty Brian Thene took the loss on Tuesday, bringing him to 1-2 on the season. His ERA jumped above ten after eight runs touched the dish after only 3.1 innings of work.
Senior right-hander Will Schierholz fell to 1-2 after he claimed Wednesday’s loss. In four innings of relief, Schierholz allowed only one run while striking out four.
The RedHawks return their focus back to MAC play as they battle for the final spot in the tournament. They are tied for ninth in the MAC with Eastern Michigan University (17-27, 7-11 MAC), who comes to Oxford this weekend for three games. The weekend series makes or breaks either team’s tournament hopes.
Hayden has been proud of the way his team has shown up to play on Fridays this season despite such a tough season.
“Our record isn’t what we want it to be, but our guys have done a good job coming out Friday ready to roll,” Hayden said. “It’s not easy to come out and play your tail off when our record is what it is.”
With the MAC tournament drawing near, he said the team is aware of where they are and where they want to be.
“We need to win the rest of these series, get at least two out of three,” Hayden said. “We’re good enough to do it.”
With the final three upcoming MAC series, Hayden said Honchel is “100 percent” after recovering from a groin injury two weekends ago.
Honchel and the rest of the bats are a focus for Hayden, who expects good pitching from the three weekend starters, including freshman righty Gus Graham, who has stepped into the new role as the Friday starter.
“Hopefully we get another step forward,” Hayden said. “He’s not a freshman anymore.”
Graham will toe the rubber against EMU, and senior right-handed pitcher Charlie Land will likely start.
Land is 3-6 with a 4.12 ERA and had his best start of his career last Friday against Northern Illinois University. He threw a complete game shutout in an 8-0 Eagle victory.
First pitch is 6 p.m. Friday.