Danny Zimmerman stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded during the Michigan baseball team’s game against Minnesota on Friday. The redshirt junior outfielder launched his second home run of the game, this one over the fence in deep left field to make the score 14-2, as the Wolverines broke open the game and went on to win 21-5.
Thanks in large part to a plethora of home runs, Michigan (18-7 Big Ten) swept Minnesota (4-20) this weekend, winning 4-0 on Saturday and 9-5 on Sunday after its rout to open the series on Friday. Following its weekend performance, the Wolverines sit just a half-game behind Nebraska in the race for the Big Ten title and lead the Big Ten in home runs with 33.
Michigan used the long ball several times this weekend, racking up eight home runs in three games. Especially on Friday, the home run ball was a theme throughout the game.
“We just did a good job of swinging at good pitches and the wind was blowing out, so we hit five home runs,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “Everything was going well for us offensively.”
Several of these home runs played key roles in the wins this weekend. Sophomore infielder Ted Burton launched a huge two-run blast in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game to put the Wolverines up 2-0, and they added two more runs to ultimately take the game, 4-0. Fifth-year transfer Benjamin Sems launched an important two-run shot to push the score to 5-2 en route to Michigan’s Sunday win.
Sems was one of several Michigan players who had a strong series offensively, leading the way for the Wolverines with five hits and a walk. Burton collected four hits and eight RBI in the series, including his big two-run homer Saturday. Redshirt sophomore outfielder Jordon Rogers also collected four hits and three walks, while sophomore outfielder Clark Elliott chipped in with four hits and four walks.
“(What made us effective was) eliminating their pitches, just sitting off, laying off the off-speed and hitting the fastball,” Rogers said. “We’re a good hitting team when we are all locked in and I think this weekend we were. It was a good example of that.”
On the mound, Michigan got several strong starts out of its rotation. Redshirt sophomore left-hander Steven Hajjar allowed two runs over five innings in the opener and left the Wolverines well in control. Sophomore right-hander Cameron Weston had a very strong outing in Michigan’s second game, tossing seven scoreless innings to give his offense a chance to get going after a slow start. In the finale on Sunday, sophomore left-hander Jacob Denner went a solid five innings and gave up two runs.
“Our starting pitchers are pitching amazing this year,” junior right handerWillie Weiss said. “They’ve all been going deep into games, doing everything that we can ask for. I’m super proud of all the pitchers, all the starting pitchers and I am looking forward to watching them keep showing out.”
Out of the bullpen, junior right-hander Willie Weiss was lights-out for the Wolverines. The Michigan closer came into the game on Saturday with Minnesota threatening. With the score knotted at zero, the Golden Gophers had the bases loaded and just one out. But Weiss came in and shut the door, striking out all five batters he faced to end the threat in the eighth and close out the ninth. In Sunday’s finale, Weiss was again excellent, tossing the last four outs out of the bullpen.
“It’s a very good feeling, knowing that we have a consistent guy who can come in and close the door, even in close games,” Rogers said of Weiss. “It’s just an amazing feeling on defense, just knowing that he’s going to get outs.”
The Wolverines were expected to do well against a Minnesota team that sits in last place in the Big Ten. But winning on the road is always difficult, and Michigan was without the services of sophomore infielder Jimmy Obertop, who hits out of the cleanup spot. Despite missing a key piece, the Wolverines took care of business and swept the Golden Gophers.
“It was a huge sweep coming off taking two of three, getting the series win against Ohio State,” Weiss said. “It was nice to see us stay hot, keep the bats going and keep the momentum going into this weekend.”