ATHENS, Ohio – In his final regular season start, Seth Varner limited Ohio to one run in six innings to help the Miami University baseball team top the Bobcats 8-5 on Thursday night.
MU improves to 27-25 and 16-9 in the Mid-American conference after winning its fifth-straight game. The Red and White need one more win to clinch at least a share of their first MAC East title since 2005. MU’s magic number to clinch an outright title is now down to two.
“Seth was awesome again and set the tone for us,” Miami head coach Danny Hayden said. “You almost take for granted how consistent he’s been this year, but he was great today. The bats were good from start to finish. We manufactured runs some innings and also hit the ball out of the park. We did everything right offensively.”
The RedHawks put a runner into scoring position in the first as Ryan Elble was hit to start the frame and eventually stole second base with two away. However, Jake Roehn ended the inning with a groundout to keep Miami off the board.
Ohio (11-38, 7-18 MAC) took the lead in the second on a pair of hits. Ty Black doubled with one out and came around one batter later when Taylor Emody singled up the middle to make it a 1-0 ballgame after two complete innings.
MU evened the score in the next half inning. Steve Sada led off the frame with a single, but was thrown out at home when he tried to score on Ryan Elble’s double off the wall. Elble did advance to third on the throw and came around on Dan Walsh’s RBI groundout.
The Bobcats threatened to regain the lead in the bottom of the third. Singles by Jake Madsen and Tyler Wells put two runners aboard with one away. MU managed to spoil that rally a bit when Max Andresen gunned out Madsen at third on a double steal attempt before Varner retired John Adryan on a groundout to third, keeping the game tied at one apiece after three.
Small ball put Miami on top in the fifth inning. Chad Sedio led off with a single and Scott Slappey reached first on a bunt single to put two aboard with nobody out. A sacrifice bunt by Sada moved both runners up 90 feet and Elble lofted a sacrifice fly to right to give the Red and White a 2-1 lead midway through the contest.
John Crummy’s line drive two-run homer put the RedHawks up 4-1 with one down in the sixth. Gary Russo started the rally with a bloop single that preceded Crummy’s second home run of the season. A single by Matt Honchel dropped into right for Miami’s third-straight hit and chased Roehn from the mound.
After Varner worked around an infield hit in the bottom of the sixth to put up another zero, Miami’s offense went right back to work in the seventh. After the first two batters reached to start the frame, Walsh dropped down a sacrifice bunt and Max Andresen lofted a sacrifice fly to score Sada. The RedHawk bats didn’t stop there as Russo crushed a two-run homer to left center, putting them up 7-1 at the seventh inning stretch.
Ohio rallied a bit on Miami’s bullpen in the bottom of the seventh. The first three Bobcats reached on an Anthony Winters single, a Connor Callery walk and Garrett Black’s two-run double. Ryan Haynes eventually retired the side on two fly outs and a foul out to keep the Red and White on top 7-3 after seven frames.
The Bobcats threatened to draw even closer in the eighth when Ty Black singled and Emody walked to start the frame. After Haynes struck out Chandler Geller, a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position. Haynes kept them from coming around when he fanned Anthony Winters and got Callery out on a fly ball to keep the RedHawks ahead by four.
Miami added another run in the top of the ninth when Andresen singled Walsh home with two outs, putting the Red and White ahead 8-3 entering the bottom of the ninth.
Ohio once again put its first two batters aboard on a single and an error, which ended Haynes’ outing. Haynes gave way to Brad Schwartz, who promptly struck out the first two batters he faced. Ty Black kept the game going with his fifth-straight hit, an RBI single that scored Madsen and cut the MU lead to 8-4. Emody followed with another RBI single to make it an 8-5 ballgame and bring the tying run to the plate. Schwartz then ended the ballgame by fanning Geller.
In his final regular season start, Varner improved to 7-2 by allowing one run on six hits in six innings. He struck out eight batters and did not walk a batter. He moved up to third on Miami’s single season list with 111 strikeouts this season, one behind Buddy Shultz’ 1971 total of 112 for second and nine behind Dave Swartzbaugh’s school record of 120 from 1989. The RedHawks’ staff fanned 13 Ohio batters, with Haynes punching out two in two innings while allowing four runs and Schwartz struck out the side in the ninth to secure the win.
All nine Miami starters recorded at least one of its 12 total hits. Crummy (2-for-4 with a home run), Russo (2-for-5 with a home run) and Elble (2-for-3) all recorded multiple hits.
The RedHawks and Bobcats continue their series on Friday with first pitch slated for 3 p.m.