For the second consecutive season, Miami baseball started its season with a four-game series split.
Up against the Saint Louis Billikens in Hoover, Alabama, the RedHawks (2-2) opened the year with a 9-1 loss on Friday before picking up a 3-2 win — their first of 2019 — in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Part two didn’t go quite as well on Saturday, as Miami fell 10-3. It bounced back to knot the series with a 9-7 victory on Sunday afternoon.
Expect inconsistency early on
After being stripped of many key contributors from last year’s squad by graduation and the Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft, Miami needs to fill some holes on the field and in the locker room.
Head coach Danny Hayden said competition for some positions and roles will be fluid throughout the season. As Hayden searches for a go-to lineup and new players attempt to establish themselves, it’s fair to expect some growing pains.
Some days, the RedHawks will give up nine runs while scoring just one. Other days, they’ll win 3-2 pitchers’ duels. It comes with the territory of February baseball and getting everyone on the same page.
Aside from the newcomers, even some of the returners are prone to early-season struggles while trying to find their rhythms.
Landon Stephens starts slow, but…
…he’ll be fine.
The junior third baseman hit .176 (3-for-17) against Saint Louis but showcased some of the power that made him one of the RedHawks’ most feared hitters last season. Two of his three hits went for extra bases (a double and a triple).
Coming into the weekend, Stephens had impressed Hayden.
“I think Landon Stephens is the guy that jumps to the top of my head,” Hayden said. “He’s worked his trail off to turn himself into an elite college baseball player right now, and I think we have a lot of guys that are following his lead.”
Last season, Stephens led Miami in RBIs, finished second on the team in home runs and batted .298. If he displays the improvement Hayden’s observed, he’ll be back to form soon enough. Seventeen at-bats is a small sample size.
Charlie Harrigan flexes his muscles
Ross Haffey finished the 2018 season with 15 home runs and a .315 batting average. The slugger ranks second on Miami’s all-time home runs list. But Haffey was one of the men lost to graduation, leaving first base available for the taking.
Hayden tabbed junior transfer Charlie Harrigan to replace Haffey, and after one weekend, it looks like a wise choice. In Alabama, Harrigan had four hits — all for extra bases — in 14 at-bats and smacked the only dinger by either team in the series.
Pitchers perform well, despite allowing seven runs a game
Not many teams will win baseball games when giving up seven runs per game, like the RedHawks did this weekend. But that number is deceiving.
Seventeen of the 28 runs Miami allowed this weekend were given up by three pitchers who hurled a combined 4.1 innings. The other nine pitchers surrendered 11 runs over 29.2 innings.
Even though they had tough first outings, seniors Bailey Martin and Shane Smith both hold prior track records of being able to get outs and throw quality innings at the collegiate level. The third pitcher who struggled, junior Bailey Vuylsteke, was appearing in his first series at Miami.
Miami stays on the road for its next series, a three-game set at Murray State. The first matchup between the two is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday.