RedHawk hitters to be challenged by Akron pitching
By MIKE SMITH
After going 1-2 in last weekend's Miami Invitational, the RedHawks get back to Mid-American Conference play this weekend when they host Akron for three games.
The series kicks off a serious stretch for MU as the RedHawks battle to finish among the MAC's top four. That would give them a spot in the MAC's post-season tournament May 11-13.
Akron is one of two MU opponents remaining on the schedule who . . .
. . . are currently among the MAC's top five teams. Both those programs visit Oxford. At 13-7 in conference play, the Zips are three percentage points (.650 - .645) in front of Miami (11-6 MAC). The RedHawks travel to Ball State for three beginning April 25 and then host another contender in Central Michigan. The Chippewas are also 11-6 through Monday, April 17. Miami finishes the regular season at with three at Kent State.
Akron is the MAC's hottest team. The Zips have won eight straight and 11 of their last 12 outings. Granted, the streak was built against teams in the lower half of MAC standings. However, UA took care of business and has momentum.
Miami also did well against a similar group, but has gone 7-2 in its last nine after dropping single games at Western Michigan, 2-1, and Toledo 2-0.
(Note: Stats listed are conference action only unless otherwise indicated)
Miami head coach Kirin Kumar has been generally pleased with the the RedHawks defense, which is ranked second among MAC teams. Pitcher Brianna Britt, meanwhile, ranks 11th in ERA (3.34).
"She's in a different role than she has been the last couple years, and she's taking it in stride," Kumar said. "She was 33-1 in conference play before this year, so we knew who she was. I think she's just having to carry a lot more of the innings, so its a little different.
"She doesn't feel as fresh all the time, but she's doing what we want her to do, and she's keeping us in the games, so the offense can come (through) and win it."
Although Kumar wasn't expecting that much offense after taking over Miami before the 2021 campaign, the RedHawks built up a strong lineup. "We've been a top-10 offensive team in the country. Oklahoma last year led the nation in home runs, and we were third."
Miami's .304 batting average and 248 runs scored top the league. Three of the top four home run hitters are RedHawks: Karli Spaid (16), Allie Cummings (13), Jenna Golembiewski (10). Catcher Riley Coyne is eighth with seven bombs.
"Yeah, We can hit." Kumar said. "We're not hitting as well as we have the last two years, ... but we're still hitting really, really well."
With Akron pitcher Haley Croyle leading the MAC in earned run average (2.21) and opponent batting average (.193), this weekend's series could be quite a battle. Weather permitting, Friday's first game is scheduled for 5 p.m.
(Note: Keep up with the Miami schedule HERE)
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.