Before the Michigan baseball team takes on Michigan State in East Lansing this weekend, it hosted a different group of Spartans on Tuesday in Ann Arbor.
After a difficult trip to Lubbock, Texas over a weekend that saw Michigan get swept 0-3 against No. 18 Texas Tech, the unranked Wolverines returned home to regroup with a doubleheader sweep of their own –– 1-0 in the first game and 3-0 in the second –– against the San Jose Spartans before Big Ten play begins against Michigan State on Friday.
In the first game's early innings, both teams’ fielding made quick work of the other, with each frame lasting only around ten minutes each. Despite some base hits which excited the crowd –– particularly sophomore infielder Jack Blomgren’s line drive out to right field for a triple –– outs accumulated quickly for Michigan on caught line drives and fly balls.
While continual fly outs frustrated both teams’ hitting, the Wolverines’ more dynamic pitching and fielding prevented the Spartans from obtaining a foothold with base hits. Michigan’s fielding was strong throughout the game and managed 1-2-3 innings in the top of the second and sixth, preventing San Jose State from ever getting a runner past second base.
“We didn’t have much going on offensively,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “It was not really an offensive day. … But we scratched the runs across when we needed to and luckily we had good defense that held them down on offense.”
The game remained stubbornly scoreless until the bottom of the fifth, when sophomore outfielder Jesse Franklin broke through and reached home after a double and stealing third base. The Wolverines then continued to hold the Spartans and the first of Tuesday's two shortened games ended after seven innings with a 1-0 win for Michigan.
In the second game, Michigan showed off its defensive dominance early in the top of the second with strikeout-heavy pitching from sophomore Angelo Smith and an inning-ending double play as sophomore catcher Harrison Salter tagged San Jose State’s Johnny Mendoza out at home.
The offense continued to lag, however, with Michigan hitting multiple ground outs and fly outs. In the bottom of the fourth, the spell seemingly lifted with an early run from junior Jordan Brewer and a powerhouse double to left center from Blomgren which sent two runners home.
“I felt great during that double,” Blomgren said. “My teammate (senior right-hander) Jack Bredeson was relaying pitches to me, so thanks to him, I saw a fastball coming and put it through the gap.”
Bakich credited San Jose State’s pitching with keeping the Wolverines on their toes for most of the day.
“We couldn’t really steal bases as much as we might have wanted to,” Bakich said. “With hitting, we just need to do a better job making adjustments to left-hand pitchers who pitch backwards –– they seemed to hit our guys with good fastballs and good breaking balls.
“We’re built on pitching and defense anyways, so it was good to see that we pitched as well as we did and have that momentum going into the weekend.”
Three quick and uneventful innings, mainly highlighted by strong pitching from Blake Beers and Benjamin Keizer, kept the Spartans scoreless to bring the second game to a 3-0 end as Michigan carried the day.