MAC Baseball Preview: Miami RedHawks

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The RedHawks are under new leadership with Dan Hayden. With plenty of young talent to work with, can he help Miami build on last year's 26-30 season?

The RedHawks finished last year with a 26-30 record and 14-13 against Mid-American Conference opponents. Finishing third in the MAC East behind Buffalo and Kent State, the RedHawks entered the conference tournament as a 5-seed, but didn't last very long only winning one game against Central Michigan.

And what kind of RedHawk season preview would this be without talking about new head coaches? They don't call Miami the Cradle of Coaches for nothing.

After Dan Simonds left Miami for an assistant coaching position at Indiana University, Dan Hayden was quickly hired to be the program's 16th head coach in its 100th season in 2014.

Returning to help lead the way for Miami is Jake Romano. The outfielder appeared in 34 games for the RedHawks last year as a true freshman. He led the conference with a .370 batting average, and had on-base and slugging percentages of .441. The leadoff hitter was fourth on the team with 31 runs scored and did not commit an error in the outfield, all good enough to be voted the MAC Freshman of the Year.

Another notable returner is John Crummy, who was the team's designated hitter in 2013. Only played catcher twice last year, he will be the primary catcher this year. He'll probably the cleanup hitter again this year with a career SLG of .384 through his junior year and a slash line of .317/.352/.422 last year. While he had a manageable OBP, he only gathered two walks in MAC play, striking out 15 times.

In the hot corner, the RedHawks will have Dan Walsh to man the position down. The senior has been the everyday third baseman for a couple of years now, having played in 114 games in his three years at Miami. His batting stats won't blow you away with career slash totals of .264/.310/.338, but had a fielding percentage of .952 last season, which is a big improvement from his .933 percentage he had in 2012.

Rounding out the rest of the starters on defense are Kendal Johnson (first base), Scott Slappey (second base), Chad Sedio (shortstop), Matt Honchel and Jacob Wolf (outfield).

Without a pair of starting pitchers from 2013 creates a lot of question marks for Miami's rotation, but Hayden has already chosen his three starters: Seth Varner, Nate Williams, Ryan Powers. Varner appeared in 21 games for the RedHawks last year with three starts, accumulating a 5.13 earned run average, 1.350 walks and hits per innings pitched, and averaged 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Williams has the most experience as a starting pitcher with 12 starts last year. Last year, Williams pitched 33.1 innings including one complete game against MAC opponents. The 2010 MLB Draftee will look to improve on his 5.29 ERA and 1.716 WHIP from last season.

Miami will begin their season on Feb. 14 with a three-game series against Arkansas State in Jonesboro, Ark.. From there, the RedHawks will play against Belmont, Middle Tennessee State and Lipscomb in the Mule Mix Classic starting on Feb. 21. They will also see some action against Davidson and Louisville before their first home matchup on March 11 against Xavier.

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