When fifth-year catcher Griffin Mazur’s run-scoring single tied the game, reloaded the bases and chased the Indiana starter in the third inning, the Michigan baseball team had a huge opportunity to take the lead against the bullpen.
The Wolverines capitalized on that opportunity by scoring four more runs in the third inning and taking a large lead — and the momentum — that they wouldn’t give back for the rest of their 10-3 win.
“We take pride in knocking starters out of the game early to get to the bullpen,” Mazur said. “Generally speaking in college baseball, most relievers are in the bullpen because they can’t be starters, so it’s always good to get in the bullpen on Friday and make their bullpen work a little bit.”
The rally began at the top of the order, with a single by fifth-year third baseman Christian Molfetta and a walk by sophomore right fielder Clark Elliott. Then, with sophomore designated hitter Jimmy Obertop batting, the two executed a double steal of second and third. Two fast runners with good leads, a righty at the plate and Obertop’s injury informed the decision to steal.
“He’s got the hurt knee, and we didn’t want to have a double play there,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “We wanted to get guys in motion so there wasn’t an inning-ending double play.”
Obertop ended up walking, loading the bases for Mazur.
After Mazur’s single, the next two Michigan hitters — fifth-year shortstop Benjamin Sems and sophomore first baseman Ted Burton — swung at the first pitches they saw from Hoosiers’ reliever Braden Scott. Both connected for opposite-field singles, scoring a run each and reloading the bases.
“I did like the way that our guys were aggressive earlier (in counts),” Bakich said. “Looking to not necessarily take a pitch that isn’t a perfect pitch down the middle, but if it’s you know over the plate, just bang it the other way for a single and get that RBI.”
Sophomore left fielder Tito Flores followed with a similar approach, taking a strike before driving in Mazur and Sems with a single. Burton advanced from first to third and Flores tried to stretch the hit into a double, but the Indiana cutoff man threw him out at second.
The inning ended a batter later, but the Wolverines had secured a commanding four-run lead that they’d continue to add to throughout the game.
“That was huge,” redshirt sophomore left-hander Steven Hajjar said. “I think that allowed everybody to take a deep breath and feel like we could be a little bit more free out there with a lead. It’s always way better to play with a lead.”
After a low-scoring series against Michigan State, in which the offense fell flat with runners in scoring position, today’s third-inning rally marked a return to Michigan’s trademark approach: stringing quality at-bats together and moving runners around, even through a walk or a single. Indiana’s next two starters rarely give up extra-base hits, so the Wolverines will need to retain this approach to put up more big innings.