The Miami University Hamilton baseball team is on the verge of history and yet another Ohio Regional Campus Conference tournament championship.
The Harriers have tied the single-season school record for wins and will be at Beaver Field in Lancaster on Friday and Saturday, hoping to complete an unbeaten run through the ORCC tournament.
“There is no ‘I’ on this team,” MUH coach Darrel Grissom said. “It’s all teammates. They have a chance to win 40 games because they’re a team.”
Miami Hamilton is 38-12. The Harriers have won 38 games twice before, in 2002 (38-13) and 2004 (38-12). Those squads won the regular-season and tournament titles — the current crew is perfect in the ORCC, but needs a tournament crown to stake its claim as the best team in school history.
“I think this is the best team depth-wise,” Grissom said. “I’ve got a couple guys that can step in and play at every position.”
MUH will face Wright State Lake in the winners’ bracket final Friday at 11 a.m. Ohio State Lima and and Ohio Lancaster are still alive in the losers’ bracket. The championship in the double-elimination event will be decided Saturday at 1 p.m. (and 3 p.m. if necessary).
Miami Hamilton has won 13 ORCC regular-season crowns in Grissom’s 14 years as head coach. The Harriers are going for the 13th tournament title in the Grissom era.
“What I expected this year was not the way it’s turned out,” Grissom said. “Some kids have really stepped up. Our starting lineup at the end of the season is totally different from where it started.”
Among the rising stars are third baseman Cody Liming of Cedarville and pitcher John Monnig of Springboro.
Liming was redshirted with an ankle injury last season, but now leads the squad with a .434 batting average. Monnig was an outfielder/pitcher throwing in the mid to low 80s in 2012 — now just a pitcher, he fired a no-hitter against OSU Lima last weekend.
“Liming is a Pete Rose-type worker,” Grissom said. “Monnig, now that we’ve taken him out of the outfield so his arm isn’t sore all the time, he’s hitting 91 miles an hour.”
Grissom said speed is a driving force with this team (MUH has 96 steals, led by Anthony Clark’s 25, Kendall Pleasant’s 14 and Heath Stricker’s 14). The power has shown with 21 home runs (Seth Martin has eight homers and 42 RBIs, and Mark Hildebrand has six homers and 51 RBIs).
“We’ve got more power than we’ve had in a long time,” Grissom said. “We’ve got a lot of upperclassmen, a lot of three- and four-year guys. That makes a big difference.”
Stricker, a Badin High School graduate, took over at shortstop and has been a quality leadoff hitter since Lakota West product T.J. Belieu suffered a knee injury about two weeks ago.
Kurtis Watkins (5-2, 5.03 ERA), Monnig (6-1, 3.89), Pete Winegardner (5-1, 2.42) and Chris Ticherich (4-2, 3.76) are the primary starting pitchers.
“We’re only losing four seniors (Martin, Hildebrand, Joe Jocketty and T.J. Seger),” Grissom said. “Our future is very bright.”
MUH is an independent program and has dominated the ORCC for so long that moving up to NAIA would seem to be a logical step. Yet there are no immediate plans to do so.
“I would love to find something more challenging, but it’s not up to me,” Grissom said. “Right now we play NCAA Division II teams, NAIA and junior colleges — we play everybody coming and going. We could bring a national championship to this town if we could be NAIA.”
Here is the regular starting lineup for Miami University Hamilton’s baseball team, with position, class, batting average and high school:
1. Heath Stricker, SS, freshman, .338, Badin
2. Anthony Clark, CF, sophomore, .392, Glen Este
3. Mark Hildebrand, DH, senior, .343, Franklin County (Ind.)
4. Mitch Durbin, 1B, redshirt sophomore, .402, Fairfield
5. Seth Martin, RF, redshirt junior, .382, Edgewood
6. Cody Liming, 3B, redshirt sophomore, .434, Cedarville
7. Joe Jocketty, 2B, senior, .314, Ladue Horton Watkins (Mo.)
8. Jon LaSota, C, sophomore, .339, Sycamore OR Braden Burdine, C, freshman, .380, Fairfield
9. Kendall Pleasant, LF, freshman, .370, Hunting Valley University School