ATHENS, Ohio – Ryan Elble’s two-run single in the ninth inning delivered the Miami baseball team its first Mid-American Conference East Division title since 2005 on Friday afternoon.
Elble’s knock gave the RedHawks’ their first lead of the day in an eventual 6-4 win at Ohio. The victory is MU’s sixth straight and moves it to 28-25 overall and 17-9 in MAC play.
“I am so proud of everyone on this team,” Miami head coach Danny Hayden said. “The boys have played their butts off the past month and really earned this. We did not look good early on, but we grinded things out to come back and win.”
After trading zeroes in the first, the RedHawks put together a two-out scoring threat in the top of the second. Matt Honchel singled and Chad Sedio drew a walk to put two aboard. Scott Slappey followed by ripping a single to left, but Austin Rieman threw Honchel out at home to keep the contest scoreless after an inning and a half.
Miami put another runner into scoring position in the top of the third when Elble drilled a double off the left field wall with one out. A groundout moved Elble to third, but the RedHawks were unable to cash in and grounded out once more to end their half of the frame.
The Bobcats (11-39, 7-19 MAC) got a double of their own from Tyler Wells with two outs in the third. OU cleanup batter John Adryan followed by ripping a line drive to right, but it was directly at Sedio who made the catch to keep it scoreless after three complete innings.
Ohio drew first blood with a two-out rally in the bottom of the fourth. Rieman doubled and Alex Winter walked to keep the frame alive for number nine hitter Connor Callery, who doubled off the wall in right to plate both runners and put OU up 2-0 after four innings of play.
Slappey got the Red and White going in the fifth when he pulled a double down the left field line with one away. Two batters later, it was Elble who pulled a single through the hole to bring Slappey around and cut the deficit to 2-1 midway through the contest.
With two down in the top of the sixth, the RedHawks tied it up on the strength of John Crummy’s bat. The senior first baseman blasted a homer to right center to even it up at two apiece. That bomb was Crummy’s third of the year, all of which have come in the last four games.
The Bobcats’ offense came right back in the sixth as Ty Black and Taylor Emody started the frame with back-to-back singles. Rieman’s bunt moved both runners into scoring position. Winter hit a ground ball to short that scored Black, though Emody was thrown out trying to move to third on the play. Nevertheless, the RBI grounder put Ohio back in front, 3-2, after six.
Max Andresen started an eighth-inning rally when he pulled a double into the gap in right center. The catcher came around to score when Gary Russo singled to left, evening the score at 3-3. The offense stalled there, however, as Logan Cozart induced an inning-ending double play.
After Jacob Banks fired a scoreless eighth inning, the RedHawks created a golden opportunity in the ninth. Honchel and Sedio singled to start the frame. Slappey laid down a bunt that moved the runners over and left the Bobcats with no play, loading the bases with nobody out. Elble gave Miami its first lead of the day two batters later when he roped a single to center field, bringing both Honchel and Sedio home and making it a 5-3 ballgame. Andresen added another run with an RBI double that plated pinch runner Reed Schlesner to send it to the bottom of the ninth with the Red and White on top 6-3.
The Bobcats were determined to make things difficult in their half of the ninth. A single and a walk were sandwiched around a pop out to bring the tying run to the plate. Jake Madsen drilled an RBI double to right center field to cut the MU lead to 6-4 and put the tying run into scoring position. Banks kept those runners from scoring by striking out the last two batters he faced to give the RedHawks the MAC East title. It marked the first time this year Miami won a game when trailing after seven innings, improving MU to 1-21 in those instances.
“There’s no question that it’s tough to win a game trailing late,” Hayden said. “They’ve done a good job in the last month of doing the little things right to win games. The team has shown a lot of resolve and ability to handle the pressure of the late innings. It was like seeing two teams in our dugout today. We didn’t swing the bats well early on and weren’t really threatening. We talked about making the last two innings our best innings of the year. You could feel that it would work out and we’d get a big hit. I’m proud of the way the kids competed today and how they’ve competed all year.”
While not factoring in the decision, Nathan Williams put together another strong start. He held the Bobcats to three runs on seven hits in seven innings. He fanned three batters and walked one. Banks (2-0) tossed the last two innings in relief, allowing a run on two hits and two walks. However, he struck out three batters to pick up his second win of the year.
The RedHawks cranked out 13 hits on the afternoon, with Elble leading the way by going 3-for-5 with a double and three RBI. Andresen (2-for-5 with a double, a run scored and one RBI), Honchel (2-for-3) and Slappey (3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored) also posted multi-hit games for Miami.
The MAC East title under first-year head coach Danny Hayden marks the second time in school history the RedHawks have won a conference or division title under a first-year head coach. The other instance came under Jon Pavlisko in 1983.
Miami and Ohio wrap up the regular season on Saturday with first pitch slated for 1 p.m.