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'Hawks come up short in Joe Nuxhall Classic

By Tom Downey
On April 10, 2014

The Miami University baseball team rounded third but wasn't able to head home in the Joe Nuxhall Classic. The RedHawks jumped on Xavier University early and often in their opening game, but fell to the University of Cincinnati in the championship game of the classic named after the legendary Cincinnati Reds pitcher and broadcaster.

The RedHawks (13-18) defeated Xavier (17-14) 14-9 Tuesday behind the power of their bats, in a game that wasn't as close as the final score might indicate. After just two innings, Miami held an 11-1 lead over the Musketeers. Every 'Hawk hitter reached base at least twice against Xavier.

The 'Hawks then fell to UC (13-18) 7-4 Wednesday thanks to an impressive performance from junior Bearcat pitcher Grant Walker.

XU started redshirt sophomore Eric Stiene, who hadn't allowed a single run in 24 2-3 innings entering the game. That streak was ended quickly, as Stiene gave up 10 runs (seven earned), seven hits and six walks in just 1 2-3 innings.

"He was good," sophomore designated hitter Gary Russo said. "I think he was a little off today - he was up early and had some control issues. I've said it a million times: This is the best lineup I've ever been a part of. This is not a surprise at all. I think if we come to the park with the same approach we did today, we can do this all year long. I think we have nine great hitters in our lineup to be honest."

Russo was one of the leaders for the RedHawks from the batting box, going 4 for 5 with three RBIs and three runs scored.

Miami freshman Christian Bokich got the start and went 3 1-3 innings, giving up five runs (one earned), six hits, no walks and striking out three.

"He was competitive," head coach Danny Hayden said. "It was good to see that out of him. He got into some trouble almost every inning, I think besides one, but a lot of that wasn't his fault. It wasn't like he was walking guys or anything like that; we kicked it around a ton behind. We weren't very reliable, especially early in the game defensively. He did a god job of getting out of stuff without giving up a big inning."

Junior Ryan Haynes came on in relief of Bokich, pitching 2 1-3 scoreless innings en route to his first college win.

Sophomore Wynston McMartin ran into some trouble in the ninth inning, giving up four runs to bring the Muskies within five, but junior Alex Brown shut the door and recorded the final two outs.

"I think we probably left McMartin in a little bit too long," Hayden said. "We were hoping he could get us through the rest of the game. I just think he kinda ran out of gas there. But he did a pretty good job while he was out there. His role on our team is not to be a nine-out guy or eight-out guy. He's usually one of those guys we count on to try to get us three outs, depending on what time of the game it is. He did a good job in his role, we tried to extend it a little bit today and that's probably why he struggled a little bit late. But he did a pretty good job."

Walker led the way for the Bearcats in the championship game, pitching a complete game. He allowed six hits, walked three, struck out six and allowed four runs, two of which were earned.

Russo went 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI, but the bats as a whole were silent after plating three runs in the second and another in the fourth.

Redshirt junior Charlie Suich got the start for the RedHawks and went 4 innings, giving up six earned runs on eight hits and two walks. Freshman Brad Schwartz was solid in relief, going 4 innings with one earned run on five hits and five strikeouts.

The RedHawks return to Mid-American Conference play this weekend, as they hit the road to face Kent State University in a three-game weekend series. Kent is in first place in the MAC East, with a 7-2 conference record and are 21-10 overall.

"It'll be good competition," Hayden said. "Kent state is very good, they are good every year now. It'll be a good measuring stick for us because I think we are starting to click. Our starting pitching has been phenomenal the last four weeks and our offense has carried when our starting pitching hasn't been great. But our starters have pretty special the last four weeks so I think it'll be a good opportunity to see where we are against who I believe will probably be the best team in our conference this year and we'll see if we can't go beat them a couple of times."

Miami is fifth in the MAC East with a 4-5 conference record, but did take two of three games from the University of Akron, which is second in the MAC East.

"I think we're pretty confident going into this weekend," Junior infielder Scott Slappey said. "We feel like we can definitely take the series. It'd be a big series for us especially. Kent State, we don't like those guys."

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