OXFORD — Miami’s baseball team has a busy week with five games on the docket. Miami kicked off the week with a Tuesday matchup, a 17-3 loss, at Morehead State before returning home for their make-up contest with Dayton on Wednesday. The RedHawks will then put their focus on the Huskies of Northern Illinois as the team heads to DeKalb, Illinois for their first road MAC series of the 2016 campaign.
AROUND THE HORN
• Miami remains one of the top power hitting teams in the country. The RedHawks rank fourth nationally in home runs per game, launching 1.38 per outing.
• Ross Haffey’s 19-game hitting streak recently came to end. However, the first baseman has reached base safely in every game so far for the ‘Hawks.
• The Red & White’s next win over Dayton will mark the 100th Miami victory in the all-time series.
• 15 of Miami’s 17 newcomers have made their debuts in the Red & White through the team’s first 21 games.
• The ‘Hawks own the top three spots for most home runs amongst MAC Players. Gary Russo leads all hitters with eight, while Chad Sedio is a close second with seven and Ross Haffey is tied for third with five.
DAYTON: The Flyers (5-17, 0-3 Atlantic 10) come into the week having been swept by Saint Louis in their Atlantic-10 series opener. Dayton is 3-9 since the RedHawks saw them last. They continue to be led offensively by Robbie Doring. The junior outfielder has started in every game and has racked up a .325 average at the dish to go with 18 runs, five doubles, seven home runs and 16 runs batted in. Before Wednesday’s contest at Miami, Dayton will play Eastern Kentucky at home on Tuesday.
LAST MEETING: The RedHawks and Flyers last met just a couple of week ago on March 8. Dayton captured the win in their home opener by downing the ‘Hawks, 11-8. The Red & White lead the all-time series, 99-39-1.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS: Despite a 4-16 start entering this past weekend, it did not stop the Huskies from going on the road and taking two out of three from the reigning MAC Tournament Champions in Ohio. Northern Illinois needed just five combined runs in their two victories. After separate losing streaks of six, four and five in the early part of the season, the Huskies have rebounded to capture victories in four of their last six, including a 9-3 defeat of Illinois. The Huskies are spearheaded offensively by infielder Justin Fletcher. The senior started each game thus far and has earned a .351 batting average. In addition, he has 11 extra base hits, 14 runs and 16 runs batted in. The Huskies play Iowa on Tuesday before hosting the ‘Hawks this weekend.
LAST MEETING: The ‘Hawks and Huskies last saw one another back in April of 2013. Northern Illinois took the first two games of that series before a Miami victory in the Sunday series finale prevented the sweep. The Red & White lead the all-time series, 35-18-1.
Entering the week, Miami sits at fourth in the country in home runs per game, launching them at a clip of 1.38 per outing. The RedHawks have belted at least one home run in 14 of their 21 games. MU also has nine games where it recorded two or more home runs in a game, hitting three home runs on five of those occasions. The season total is up to 29 after adding two more this past week, both of which came in Sunday’s series finale against Ball State.
With a wealth of home runs comes a solid slugging percentage. However, it has not been the only reason Miami is ranked 14th nationally in that category. Entering the week, the Red & White’s 45 doubles and seven triples rank third and second in the MAC, respectively.
PLAYING WITH A LEAD
Miami has scored the first run in 11 of their 21 games. Getting a contest’s first run(s) has proven to be beneficial as the Red & White are 8-3 when doing so. Conversely, when surrendering the game’s first run, the RedHawks are just 1-9. Getting a quick lead has also proven to predict results. After a first inning deficit, MU is just 2-5. When leading after one, the ‘Hawks are 4-1. The Red & White have yet to falter when leading after four innings, recording a 5-0 mark in that circumstance.
Redshirt sophomore Ross Haffey has been on a tear since the season began. Through 21 games, the first baseman is hitting a MAC-high .395. His 12 extra base hits ranks third on the team behind Gary Russo (14) and Tyler Harris (13). Haffey entered the week in the national top 50 in runs batted in per game and slugging percentage. The Birmingham, Mich. native’s 19-game hitting streak came to a close on Sunday against Ball State. However, he has reached base safely in all 21 game this season.
Much can be derived about a team’s potential based on the number and quality of players they lost from the previous season. However, perhaps more importantly, the other side of the coin features what you actually have in your newcomers. With 17 fresh faces on the roster in 2016, it stands to reason a bulk of them will see a good amount of action this season. 15 newcomers have made their Miami debuts through the team’s first 17 games.
After a monster season in 2014 that saw him lead the team in home runs, doubles, extra-base hits, runs batted in, runs and slugging pct., senior Gary Russo could not find his stride at the plate a season ago. After some work in the batter’s box, as well as a huge emphasis on improving his defense, Russo will hope to become a staple in MU’s corner outfield. A revitalization at the dish for the St. Louis, Mo. native could prove to be a nice bonus to a lineup with several proven bats. Russo has performed well this far in 2016, hitting .305 with eight home runs, four doubles, two triples and 21 runs batted in.
Redshirt junior Adam Yacek became a pleasant surprise for the Red & White a season ago.
The third baseman was one of Miami’s most consistent hitters, providing a good mix of power and contact at the plate. He led the team in XBH (22), slugging pct. (.507), home runs (6) and triples (5). His .337 average a season ago is the highest of any RedHawk returners. For his efforts in 2015, Yacek was named a Second Team All-MAC selection. After a slow start to 2016, Yacek has been on the upswing and is just off of a 13-game hitting streak, the second-longest streak of any RedHawk this season.
MIAMI BASEBALL GETS NEW HOME
Funded entirely through the private support of Miami Baseball’s alumni and friends, the team was able to move into their brand new facility in September. The Jay Hayden Baseball Center is a 10,000 square-foot facility that features a coaches’ office suite, a locker room, players’ lounge, training room and much more. The building sits along Hayden Park’s left field line and is attached to both the existing hitting facility and home bullpen. A tunnel also allows for field access for Miami during their games. The facility is a product of the ongoing Graduating Champions campaign by Miami Athletics.
MAC PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. Kent State – 63 points (9)
2. Ohio – 55 points (2)
3. Bowling Green – 43 points
4. Miami – 37 points
5. Buffalo – 22 points
1. Central Michigan – 56 points (6)
2. Ball State – 53 points (3)
3. Western Michigan – 42 points (1)
4. Toledo – 41 points
5. Northern Illinois – 24 points (1)
6. Eastern Michigan – 15 points
TOURNAMENT CHAMPION VOTES: Kent State (4), Central Michigan (2), Ball State (1), Bowling Green (1), Miami (1), NIU (1), Western Michigan (1)