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Miami finding rhythm on diamond, leads MAC East

The Mid-American Conference baseball season is here, and Miami University is starting to find its collective groove.

The RedHawks are 12-11 overall and lead the MAC East Division with a 5-1 mark heading into tonight’s nonleague contest at Ohio State. MU has a three-game conference series at Akron this weekend.

“It’s good to get off to a decent start,” Miami coach Dan Simonds said. “But you’ve got to talk to me in seven weeks. That’s when it’s going to matter.”

The last six games have been in the MAC, against Eastern Michigan and Toledo, and followed blowout losses to Indiana on March 19-20.

The RedHawks have lifted their team batting average to .282 with six players hitting over .300 — Jake Romano (.381 in six games), Matt Honchel (.365), Ryan Elble (.318), John Crummy (.313), Kevin Bower (.310) and Chad Sedio (.302). Bower and Alex Johnson both have 18 RBIs.

“We just really started hitting three weeks ago,” Simonds said. “At the beginning of the season, our hitting was anemic. It was a little alarming. Now we’re starting to put together more competitive at-bats.”

Honchel has shown no signs of experiencing a sophomore slump. The left fielder is swinging a hot bat in the leadoff position.

“I was concentrating on driving the ball more early in the season, and I was driving it right at people,” said Honchel, a Harrodsburg, Ky., native with six doubles, a triple, 10 RBIs and nine stolen bases. “I’ve kept the same approach, except now they’re starting to fall. That’s how baseball is, a game of inches.

“We have the credentials to become a great team. Some of the most talented teams lose. We have the talent here. Now I think we’re showing the chemistry to come together and win.”

Simonds said MU’s three workhorses on the mound are throwing well. Brooks Fiala is 3-3 with a 3.31 ERA, Nathan Williams is 3-1 with a 3.44 ERA, and Mac Thoreson is 2-3 with a 6.61 ERA. Fiala has 49 strikeouts in 49 innings.

“I would like to see our team ERA under 4.00 (it’s 5.22), but we’ve had a couple really bad games, so I’m not going to put a whole lot of stock in that,” Simonds said. “That said, we’re going to need some guys to step up out of our bullpen.

“It’s been encouraging to see Ryan Powers (1-0, 3.31). I think he’s going to fill that role as a back-end guy, a potential closer.”

The RedHawks have been playing without three key players in recent days. Simonds is hoping to have second baseman Matt Packer (knee), outfielder Romano (knee) and designated hitter Adam Yacek (back) available for action in the next two weeks.

Defensively, Simonds said Miami hasn’t been bad, but needs to be better.

“It’s not so much a lot of errors,” he said. “I just think there’s some plays we’re leaving on the field.”

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