The Michigan baseball team entered Wednesday’s home opener with a bitter taste in its mouth after being upset by in-state foe Western Michigan last season. But the bitterness became sweet as the Wolverines dismantled the Broncos, 12-4, scoring eight of their runs with two outs.
Michigan (1-2 Big Ten, 10-14-1 overall) tallied six two-out runs in the fourth inning to take the lead over the Broncos and never looked back. After two quick outs, Western Michigan’s pitchers were unable to find the strike zone, hitting one batter and walking three others.
With the bases loaded, junior first baseman Kendall Patrick hit a two-run single — his second of the game. Junior second baseman Eric Jacobson followed with a one-run single.
“To think that we were capable of doing that gives us a lot of confidence,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “It was just a big separator inning, and to do it with two outs really just gave our guys a lot of momentum.”
Jacobson has been firing on all cylinders for the Wolverines since starting against Indiana on Saturday. With two hits against the Broncos, Jacobson raised his average to .444, which leads the team and would top the Big Ten if he qualified.
“Confidence and aggressiveness is the key,” Jacobson said. “It’s exciting that I can provide a spark to the lineup.”
Added Bakich: “I think the baseball gods are just rewarding a kid that works extremely hard.”
The Broncos (10-12) had some luck early. Andrew Sohn reached third base after a fly ball got by the Wolverines, and senior right-hander Alex Lakatos wasn’t able to find a rhythm, walking two hitters and surrendering two hits.
It didn’t faze the Wolverines. Michigan answered handily in its first turn at bat with Patrick hitting a two-run single, scoring sophomore third baseman Jacob Cronenworth and junior outfielder Jackson Glines.
Freshman left-hander Brett Adcock relieved Lakatos after only one inning, providing three scoreless innings while tallying two strikeouts en route to his first win of the season.
“He had some tough luck early where it seemed like everything he threw up there found a hole and was hit very hard,” Bakich said. “He’s settled in, and we know he will throw strikes. We have a lot of confidence when he goes in there.
“Him putting up a few zeroes there was a big part of the game and critical for us to not only tie it up, but to take the lead.”
The Broncos relieved left-hander Derek Schneider, who recorded three strikeouts, after one inning. Schneider picked up the win in Michigan’s home opener last year.
Junior shortstop Travis Maezes continued his timely hitting with a leadoff triple in the third inning. Glines knocked him in to tie the game, 3-3.
Senior catcher Cole Martin also had a sound defensive game, easily throwing out a runner stealing. Martin’s defensive prowess got him named to the 2014 Johnny Bench Award watch list, an accolade given to the nation’s top catcher.
Perhaps the biggest plus for Michigan was its plate discipline. The Wolverines have often gotten behind in counts and consistently struggled hitting with two strikes. But Michigan walked nine times Wednesday, with Cronenworth alone accounting for four.
“We work on being aggressive to the pitches that we want to hit and being disciplined on pitches out of the zone,” Bakich said. “It’s just an approach thing, and the thing our guys did a good job on was laying off pitches down and out of the zone.”