NASHVILLE – The Miami baseball team posted a resilient comeback attempt, but a walk-off balk sent it to a 9-8 loss at Belmont in the Mule Mix Classic on Friday.
The Red and White (0-4) came back from an 8-4 hole in the latter innings to even the score, but remain winless in the early going of the season.
“Our plate approaches were consistent today,” Miami head coach Danny Hayden said. “We were solid offensively for all nine innings. We are close, but we need a couple guys to step up in the bullpen for us to get where we need to go.”
Jake Romano led off the game with a double and advanced to third base on a groundout. Austin Coley recorded a strikeout, but then walked Gary Russo to bring up John Crummy. The senior drilled a two-out RBI single to put the RedHawks on top 1-0 after half an inning. However, the Bruins answered with a two-out RBI of their own in the bottom of the frame as Nick Egli plated Drew Ferguson to even the score at 1-1 after a full inning of play.
The score remained tied at one apiece entering the fourth, but Gary Russo changed that with one swing of the bat. The sophomore belted his first-career home run to lead off the inning and put MU on top by a 2-1 count after four innings.
Romano put together a scoring threat on his own in the fifth when he drew a two-out walk and proceeded to steal second and third base. Coley, however, escaped the jam by inducing an inning-ending groundout.
Belmont took the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth. Ferguson evened the score with a solo home run and a homer by Jamie Ritchie put the Bruins on top 3-2.
Undeterred, the Red and White regained the lead with a two-run sixth. Matt Honchel walked and stole second before coming around on Scott Slappey’s one-out single. With two men on, Chad Sedio was plunked by a pitch and Jacob Wolf lofted a sacrifice fly to left, plating Crummy and putting MU back in front 4-3.
Five-straight Bruins reached base with one out in the bottom of the sixth in the form of a single, two walks and a bases loaded hit batter that tied the score at four apiece. BU took a 5-4 lead when a passed ball allowed Drake Byrd to score. After a new Miami pitcher came in, Ritchie drilled a three-run double to put MU into an 8-4 hole.
The Red and White bats kept on coming, adding two more runs in the seventh on Dan Walsh’s RBI triple and Honchel’s sacrifice fly. Another run came around with two outs in the eighth as Romano singled home Slappey to cut the deficit to 8-7.
With one down in the ninth, Honchel drew a one-out walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. A Belmont error put two runners aboard with only one out, though Greg Brody struck out the next batter to bring Miami down to its final out. Needing a big hit, Slappey delivered just that with a game-tying RBI single to left that brought Honchel around and sent the game to the bottom of the ninth tied 8-8.
Belmont’s first three batters drew walks to load the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth. Following the third free pass, Miami went to freshman Jacob Banks to try to escape the jam and force extra innings. Banks fanned Drake Byrd and Tyler Walsh, part of a 17-strikeout performance by the MU staff, to get within an out of stranding all three runners. However, a balk was called in pitch into his third batter, which forced in Zach Hald and ended the ballgame.
Seth Varner garnered the start for the RedHawks and struck out a career-high 11 batters while allowing three runs on four hits in five innings. He also walked three batters. Charlie Suich (0-1) was credited with Belmont’s walk-off run in the ninth and took the loss. Offensively, Romano (3-for-4; two steals) and Slappey (3-for-5, two RBI) posted three hits apiece and Crummy (2-for-5) also had a multi-hit outing.
Miami resumes the Mule Mix Classic on Saturday when it travels to Middle Tennessee. Opening pitch is at 1 p.m. ET. Nathan Williams is slated to start for the RedHawks.