In a weather-related change of schedule, Miami baseball (3-7) is preparing to open up a three-game series on the road against the University of Kentucky (8-6) at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, not Friday.
Regardless of the rescheduling, this series against the Wildcats is shaping up to have an effect on how the RedHawks will approach the rest of the season. After starting the season the way they have, the outcome of this series could prove to be vital to MU’s future.
Following an 0-4 start to the campaign, Kentucky has quickly righted the ship — they’ve gone 8-2 in their last 10 games. They have begun to travel down a similar path to last season, a year in which they finished 15-15. It’s clear the ‘Cats are coming into the series on a roll, which is why the Red and White are approaching this series with caution.
Entering the series, that appears to be the mindset that head coach Danny Hayden is deploying.
“Kentucky is not [in the top-25], right now. But they are playing really good baseball, they might be in a week or two, they might be in the top-25. They’re a good ball club.”
Miami has struggled early. Albeit, against some tough competition in Arkansas and USF but nonetheless, they have struggled. This is an area that coach Hayden believes could use some work and he sees UK as an opportunity to improve. Hayden has aspirations of competing with the top-25.
“Coming into the season, I felt that we were prepared to compete with teams like that. We haven’t shown that early on here. Three weeks into the season, I would say we have not done a good job looking like a team that can compete with top-25 teams — definitely don’t look like a top-25 team. But this is another opportunity for us to go play a good club.”
With both teams entering this three-game set on the heels of a series victory, it’s hard telling which way it’s going to go.
Last weekend, MU torched Illinois State University for 25 runs — almost three times as many runs that were scored in the team’s first seven games — which only bode well for the ‘Hawks chances against the ‘Cats.
Leading the charge at the plate for Miami will be the pairing of Redshirt senior Adam Yacek, and Redshirt junior Ross Haffey.
The infield duo have combined to go 21-for-72 with four doubles, three home runs and seven runs batted in at the plate. In the process of raking while at-bat, the twosome occupy the top-two spots on the squad with 11 and 10 hits, respectively.
Despite the recent offensive success and the contributions from Yacek and Haffey, coach Hayden is still looking for more.
“Execution should be close to perfect. We’re talking about putting the bat on the ball in hit and runs, getting bunts down in play and where we want them down, getting runs in from third base with less than two outs. We should expect to be pretty close to perfect on that type of situational baseball. In addition to that, our approach should be consistent.”
On the other side of the field, look for Nick Mingione’s team’s bats to be energized by the duo of senior outfielder Marcus Carson, and junior infielder Riley Mahan.
Carson and Mahan have collaborated to go 38-for-112. Of those 38 hits, there have been 11 doubles, two triples and four home runs, with Mahan leading all Wildcats with three home runs.
Outside of the offense, a newfound strength for MU has been the emergence of the bullpen. Last series, it was the relief pitchers that saved the day for the ‘Hawks.
Over the three games against ISU, the bullpen had one win, four earned runs, 12 strikeouts, 14 innings pitched and two saves.
“It has been a bunch of different guys in the bullpen that are getting some innings in and are having different levels of success,” coach Hayden said.
Miami takes on Kentucky at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday in Lexington, KY, as they look to win another series.