Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Preview: Miami Baseball opens season on the road against South Carolina Gamecocks

<p>Miami is ranked No. 7 in the MAC heading into the season</p>

Miami is ranked No. 7 in the MAC heading into the season

The Miami University RedHawks baseball team will open its season on the road against the University of South Carolina Gamecocks, who are ranked 25th best in the nation to start the season.

Miami finished the 2022-23 season with a 21-35 record and will enter this season ranked No. 7 in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) coaches preseason poll. They ranked one point behind the No. 6 University of Toledo and two points behind the No. 5 Ohio University.

The RedHawks have a fair amount of work to do this season, and it starts with proving themselves against one of the best teams in college baseball.

The Gamecocks held an impressive 42-21 record last season under head coach Mark Kingston, who was originally hired as manager in 2018. They finished the season third in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) East behind the University of Florida Gators and the Vanderbilt University Commodores.

As a result of their impressive record, South Carolina finished last season as the 13th-ranked team in the nation. The Gamecocks were also voted in the SEC preseason poll to finish fourth in the conference behind the Florida Gators, University of Tennessee Volunteers and Vanderbilt Commodores.

The first name to watch for this upcoming weekend is Ethan Petry, a right-handed sophomore outfielder standing at a monstrous 6-foot-4 who took the SEC by storm last season, posting likely the best statistical season the South Carolina program has seen from a first-year.

In 63 games last season, Petry finished with a .376 batting average, .471 on-base percentage and .733 slugging percentage, all team bests. His OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) totaled 1.204, which is well above average.

Petry’s slugging percentage alone was third-best in the nation among all first-years.

The big outfielder also finished the season with 23 home runs, 75 RBIs and 33 walks, the first two being team-bests as well.

Petry will be the number three hitter on the lineup card this weekend.

The other big-name player in the Gamecocks lineup is catcher Cole Messina, a 6-foot, 230-pound, righty who was the team’s second-best offensive weapon last season.

Like Petry, Messina was voted as a 2023-24 preseason first-team All-American and voted to the preseason All-SEC First Team. 

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

The Gamecocks’ backstop is less of a power hitter than Petry, but he can still make contact with the best of them. In 62 games played, Messina’s .307/.428/.615 slash line was the second-best on the team. He hit a team-leading 18 doubles while still tacking on 17 home runs, a team-leading 40 walks and only striking out 48 times.

“They’re two guys that love to play, they love to be at the park every day, they’re competitors,” Kingston said. “You couldn’t ask for anything more. I wouldn’t trade those two for anybody in the country.”

Of course, the pitching staff and the bullpen will play a key role, as it ranked top-15 in the nation in both earned run average and walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP). However, the nine players who will stand in the batter’s box are the true bread and butter of South Carolina.

New Miami head coach Brian Smiley and his new assistant coaches, Kyle Trewyn and Larry Scully, will have their hands full in the first three games of the season, but it will be a good test to gauge just where the team sits in comparison to one of the best in the nation.  

As for players to watch in the Miami dugout, it starts with third baseman Ryland Zaborowski, the 6-foot-5 third baseman and redshirt junior from Gilbert, Arizona. 

Zaborowski was ranked by as the 27th-best third baseman in the nation. Last season, he led the MAC in home runs (20), which was one away from the single-season RedHawks record. 

Additionally, Zaborowski totaled 142 bases, which is the ninth-best in RedHawks history. Finally, he led Miami in hits (62), RBIs (52), runs (52), slugging percentage (.686) and OPS (1.088) last season.

The RedHawks lost their next-best offensive option and best defender in Cooper Weiss, who transferred to Auburn University as a graduate student, but the defensive side of the game is still somewhere the RedHawks can (and need to) shine.

The new manager Smiley is known for his defensively stout teams, but one of the most interesting pieces of this Miami team puzzle is the pitching. The staff is filled with talented hurlers, but they’re also a rather tall group as well. Grad student Lukas Galdoni (6-foot-4), senior Ahmad Harajli (6-foot-4), first-year Nolan Hollis (6-foot-6), first-year Chase Mazey (6-foot-3), junior Peyton Olejnik (6-foot-10) and first-year Jack Paulus (6-foot-7) lead the charge in the height department.

There are nine first-years total on this Miami roster, so it’s a young team that will have plenty of room to grow as the season goes on, and what better way to try and prove yourself than playing one of the best teams in the country?

The first pitch of the 2023-24 season is at 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16, with Saturday’s game beginning at 12 p.m. and Sunday’s matchup beginning at 1:30 p.m.