Lindenwood's Failoni earns highest batting average in MIAA history
Lindenwood's Mike Failoni delivered an RBI single in the fifth inning of the Lions’ game on Tuesday against Lindenwood-Belleville. The hit not only gave Lindenwood a 3-0 lead in the game, but was Failoni’s 86th hit of the season and made him the first player in the 48-year history of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) to hit .500 for an entire season.
When Failoni was replaced in the lineup by a pinch hitter in the ninth inning, he finished the season 86-for-172 for a batting average of exactly .500. That mark broke the MIAA record of .489 that was set by Dan Shy of Southeast Missouri State in 1989. Failoni is not eligible to be listed among the NCAA statistics leaders due to Lindenwood being in its provisional year of joining the NCAA, but as of April 28, he was the only hitter at every level of NCAA baseball to be hitting .500 or better.
“This was the greatest seasonal hitting exhibition by any player that I have ever coached,” Lindenwood head coach Doug Bletcher said. “A .500 batting average at the DI or DII level is beyond comprehension. A slump for Mike was going two at-bats without a hit.”
Failoni’s record-breaking season got off to a rocky start as he went hitless for three of his first four games and he was batting .167 after Lindenwood’s four-game series at Southwest Oklahoma State. He soon heated up at the plate, going on a 27-game hitting streak. He had 16 multi-hit games in that span, including a season-high five hits against Nebraska-Kearney.
The hitting streak was finally ended by Northeastern State on April 7 and Failoni was hitting .463 at that point. The first baseman responded by starting another streak, which stretched through the final 14 games of the year. During that streak Failoni went 30-for-51 (.588) to push his batting average to .500 for the year.
“It was truly a testament to Mike’s sustained tenacity and belief in himself with an ability to grind, day after day, week after week, month after month,” Bletcher said. “All this against tough lefty-lefty matchups, being sick or slightly injured and not up to full strength, off-speed pitchers, dominant fastball pitchers, starters, mid-relievers and closers."
Failoni’s final numbers had him hitting safely in 42 of 46 games in the 2013 season. In those 42 games with a hit, he had multiple hits in 27 of them, including 14 games with two hits, 10 games with three hits and three games with four or more hits. Failoni reached base in 45 of 46 games, including the final 44.
Failoni was not just a singles hitter like you would expect from someone with such a high average. He had a .767 slugging percentage with 24 doubles, three triples and six home runs. He also scored 48 runs and had 41 RBIs.
“If any hitter is going to have an average such as this, you would have thought the hitter would be someone that could leg out a lot of infield hits or an ability to drop bunts down frequently,” Bletcher said. “But in Mike’s case, the hits were all swinging away and not reliant on speed.”
Failoni was the main reason why Lindenwood had a successful first season in the MIAA. The Lions went 21-17 in conference play and finished seventh in the final regular-season standings, despite having just one senior on its roster for their first full year of Division II action. Through April 30, Failoni led the MIAA in on-base percentage, hits, doubles, total bases and hitting percentage and was second in slugging percentage. In MIAA games, he was hitting .538 with a .839 slugging percentage.
“This was an unbelievable achievement that no Lindenwood coach, teammate, nor fan will likely ever witness again,” Bletcher said.