BUFFALO, N.Y. – Charles Zubrod fired eight strong innings to help finish off the Miami University baseball team’s series sweep at Buffalo with a 5-4 win on Sunday.
The RedHawks (26-25, 15-9 Mid-American) have won four-straight to move above .500 for the first time this season. The win also gives MU sole possession of first place in the MAC East Division entering the final regular season weekend. Sunday’s win also clinches Miami’s spot in the MAC Tournament, which begins on May 21.
“Charles was awesome today,” Miami head coach Danny Hayden said. “We went into the game thinking we had everyone available if need be, but he wanted the ball for the whole game and only allowed two hits.”
The Bulls (23-22, 12-11 MAC) took advantage of a leadoff walk to score their first run of the day in the bottom of the first. Jimmy Topps drew a free pass and moved into scoring position on a groundout. A wild pitch moved him to third, where he touched home on Matt Pollock’s RBI groundout that made it a 1-0 contest.
UB starter Mike Burke set down the first seven MU hitters he faced until John Crummy singled with one down in the third. The senior did not move further, however, as a foul out and fly out retired the side.
After the leadoff walk in the first, Zubrod retired 10-straight batters to take a no-hitter into the fourth inning despite trailing on the scoreboard. Pollock put an end to that by doubling with one down in the bottom of the fourth and Tyler Mautner singled to right center to bring him around and put the RedHawks down by two runs.
Miami used some two-out thunder to rally in the fifth. Crummy’s single kept the inning alive after the first two batters were retired. Steve Sada followed by drilling an RBI double to get MU on the board. The Red and White bats didn’t stop there as Ryan Elble capped the inning with a two-run homer on the eighth pitch he saw in the at-bat. His third dinger of the season put the RedHawks on top 3-2 midway through the game. Zubrod shut the door in the next inning, striking out two in a 1-2-3 fifth to keep the Red and White on top after five full frames.
After MU went down in order in its half of the sixth, UB’s Nick Sinay was hit by a pitch and stole second with one out to put the tying run into scoring position. Zubrod wouldn’t let him travel any further as he retired Pollock on a fly out before winning an eight-pitch battle to strike out Mautner and end the frame.
The RedHawks added some cushion to their lead in the top of the seventh. Matt Honchel led off the frame with a single and advanced on a sacrifice bunt. Crummy notched his third-straight hit, an RBI double that extended the lead to 4-2. MU wasn’t done yet as Elble whacked a 2-2 pitch up the middle for an RBI single that put the Red and White on top 5-2 at the stretch.
Miami got another scoring opportunity in the top of the eighth when Dan Walsh walked and moved to second on an errant pickoff throw. He advanced to third on a fly ball, but was stranded there. A leadoff walk to pinch hitter Thomas Richards led to a Buffalo run in the bottom of the eighth. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and a fly ball moved him to third before Topps’ sacrifice fly cut the MU lead to 5-3. Zubrod finished the frame on a groundout to send the RedHawks to the ninth leading by a 5-3 margin.
Pollock led off the bottom of the ninth with a double to bring the tying run to the plate. Jacob Banks retired Mautner on a fly out before striking out Chris Kwitzer to get the second out. Down to their last out, the Bulls got an RBI single from Vinny Mallaro to put the tying run on and cut the RedHawks’ lead to 5-4. Kyle Figgins drew a four-pitch walk to put the winning run on base as well. Thomas Richards was plunked on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases, putting the tying and winning runs into scoring position. Banks recovered against Mike Scarcello and ended the game by forcing him to ground out to first base and secure the sweep.
Zubrod (1-2) pitched a career-high eight innings to pick up his first win of the season. He held the Bulls to three runs on two hits, walking two and striking out a career-high eight batters. Banks allowed a run on two hits with a walk and a hit batter in the ninth, but notched his third save in the last four games.
Offensively, Crummy (3-for-3 with a double, one RBI and two runs scored) was one of three RedHawks to record multi-hit games. Elble led Miami with three RBI in a 2-for-4 afternoon that included a home run and Honchel also finished 2-for-4 with a run scored.
“John is on a roll right now,” Hayden said. “He’s seeing the ball about as well as you can see it and he isn’t missing his pitches. Our seniors are giving us shots in the arm when we need it. We were down a couple runs early and we kept grinding out good at bats as a team. Our starting pitching has consistently given us a chance to win over conference weekends and that’s helped us win some tougher low-scoring ball games, but we’re expecting to win lately.”
The RedHawks have three regular season games remaining, a three-game series at Ohio that starts on Thursday.