The Flyers used a big offensive show and a freshman’s first winning start to continue their winning streak (2) and make a great spring day a great baseball day, as well.
DAYTON — Austin Cline was nonchalantly raking pebbles and debris off the bullpen mound down the right field line, calmly smoothing the surface.
It was after the University of Dayton baseball team won its home opener, 11-8, over Miami University at Woerner Field Tuesday afternoon.
Never in the history of major league baseball has a team’s winning pitcher, a guy who pitched six innings, a guy who threw 84 pitches, been required to refurbish and beautify a bullpen mound.
Welcome to your freshman year of college baseball, Austin, where baseball comes with free horticultural experience.
Cline, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound freshman righthander from Benjamin Logan High School in Bellefontaine, made his collegiate starting debut Tuesday afternoon and held Miami to four runs and six hits over his six innings.
During UD’s first nine games Cline worked exclusively out of the bullpen, four appearances, and it was a big ol’ welcome to college baseball, kid.
Those four appearances were over 6 1/3 innings and consisted of eight earned runs (11.37 earned run average), eight hits and six walks. Opponents hit .320 against him.
“We’ve put him in some tough spots, some spots where he didn’t have the greatest chance of succeeding,” said UD pitching coach Ryne Romick. “You’re allowed to make a few mistakes when you are starting.”
He made one hurtful mistake over his six innings, a two-out, three-run home run to Julian Flannary in the second inning that drew Miami even, 3-3, after the Flyers scored three in the top of the first.
UD shortstop Nick Weybright retrieved two of those runs in the bottom of the second with a home run, giving the Flyers a 5-3 lead they never relinquished.
But it was queasy all the way. The Flyers led 3-0, 7-3, 7-4, 8-4, 8-5, 8-7, 11-7 and 11-8.
And before relief pitcher Mashashi Sakamoto ended the game, Miami had the tying at the plate with two on base and one out. Sakamoto delivered a strikeout for the second out and ended it on a tapper in front of the plate on which catcher Matt Poland threw out the runner.
Sakamoto arrived in the eighth inning when Miami had pushed across two runs to draw within 8-7 and had runners on first and third with two outs. He retired designated hitter Gary Russo on a ground ball.
But the day belonged to Cline, who relished his first starting opportunity.
“That’s what I’m used to doing and I just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity,” he said.
Opportunity knocked and he opened the door.
“He was good, yes, he was good,” said Romick, his pitching coach. “He has a good head on his shoulders. His composure is really good and he has great stuff.”
He displayed that composure in the third inning when he put up a zero after giving up the three-run homer in the second. And he was even better in the fourth. He needed 57 pitches to get through three innings, then retired Miami on four pitches in the fourth.
“He has four pitches but today he only had two,” said Romick. “His changeup was just OK. But when his fastball has a good plane, when he throws it downhill, it’s tough to hit.”
A stiff wind blew out, meaning it was a requirement to keep the ball down and Romick said, “Our parks plays small when the wind blows outs. He did a nice job dealing with it. He has a bright future ahead of him if he keeps working.”
As Romick spoke, Cline was raking away in the bullpen and Romick laughed and said, “He never quits working.”
Cline agreed with his pitching coach about his repertoire and said, “My fastball, I was able to place it where I wanted. My curveball wasn’t there, which isn’t usual because it’s my best pitch. But I made it work and slipped in a couple of changeups.
Of the three-run home run, he said, “It was a miss, for sure. A fastball.
The home runs hit by Miami’s Julian Flannary and UD’s Nick Weybright had a bit of an ironic twist. Both are red-shirt juniors and they were teammates in high school at Lawrence North in Indianapolis, so Weybright could not let Flannary upstage him.
Both teams collected 11 hits, but the top three in UD’s order did direct damage, contributing six hits, seven runs and six RBI.
Leadoff hitter, right fielder Robbie Doring, was 2 for 4 with two runs and two RBI. Weyright was 1 for 4 with three runs and two RBI. Designated hitter Aaron Huesman was 3 for 5 with two runs and two RBI.
Miami fell to 5-and-5 while the Flyers are on a two-game winning streak after losing their first eight.