With one swing of the bat, junior third baseman Drew Lugbauer rejuvenated the No. 18 Michigan baseball team and the depleted crowd at Ray Fisher stadium.
In the bottom of the fifth, with the bases loaded and the Wolverines down 8-3, Lugbauer sent the ball over the left-field wall for his second grand slam of the season.
“Once Drew (Lugbauer) got that big hit, even though we were down a run, I think the mindset of the guys was, ‘We know down a run is nothing,’ ” said Michigan Coach Erik Bakich. “The belief system was we’re going to find a way to tie it up and find a way on top.”
And three at-bats later, the team did just that, as redshirt sophomore left fielder Miles Lewis scored on a fielder’s choice, tying the game at eight apiece.
From there, Michigan (5-2 Big Ten, 24-6 overall) completed its seven-run comeback to notch a 9-8 victory against Illinois (0-4 Big Ten, 10-17 overall), marking the Wolverines’ largest come-from-behind effort of the season.
In first game of the weekend series, Michigan’s ace left-hander Oliver Jaskie simply wasn’t himself. The junior survived just three innings, surrendering seven runs (five earned) on five hits and three walks. It was Jaskie’s shortest outing of the season.
The Fighting Illini got to Jaskie right away, as leadoff batter Jack Yalowitz began the game with a home run. Illinois added another run on a passed ball by senior catcher Harrison Wenson.
After showing promise by retiring the side in order in the second inning, the Fighting Illini again overwhelmed Jaskie in the third, increasing their lead to 7-0. The inning was highlighted by a bloop single by designated hitter Casey Dodge that scored two runs.
Despite the large deficit, the Wolverine players never thought they were out of it.
“We kind of just felt like we knew we were going to come back,” Lugbauer said. “We believe in each other and just play our game.”
Bakich wasn’t as optimistic, noting he was “very concerned” with his team down seven runs.
However, in the fourth, Michigan began to mount its comeback, putting up three runs.
The rally started with a one-out single by senior centerfielder Johnny Slater, who then stole second. In the next at-bat, senior shortstop Michael Brdar blasted a double to left-center, scoring Slater. Both Lewis and sophomore right fielder Jonathan Engelmann followed with a pair of singles, scoring two more runs.
In the seventh, two innings after the Wolverines tied the game, Michigan established its first lead. Lewis – who went 3-for-3 on the day with two runs batted in and two runs scored – hit a double to the wall in left-center, scoring Lugbauer to make it 9-8.
In the top of the eighth, Illinois attempted a comeback of its own. But with runners on the corners and one out, senior right-hander Mac Lozer produced a strikeout and fly out to retire the side.
“(The victory) was great, it sets the tone (for the rest of the series),” Lewis said. “It’s maybe a wake-up call to not come out so flat tomorrow.”
The comeback win displayed the fighters mentality that has been stressed to the team all season. Bakich and his players credit this to their extensive mental toughness training in the offseason.
“I think the belief system is there that we can comeback,” Bakich said. “But it’s one thing to think you can do it and it’s another thing to actually do it.”