In a rarity for baseball, both teams were racing against the clock.
With a five-and-a-half hour drive back to Terre Haute, Ind. ahead of Indiana State on Wednesday evening, even the possibility of a shortened seven-inning game wasn’t enough to risk pushing up against their prearranged 7:30 travel curfew. Coming off yesterday’s hard-fought 8-7 loss –– only its second home loss of the year –– the Michigan baseball team managed to hold its lead despite a worthy challenge from the Sycamores to hang on and win, 6-4.
“Indiana State is a savvy, quality team,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “They don’t get rattled, they play well on the road, they’re a good and complete team. We knew we had our work cut out for us.”
A sluggish start to the game for both teams was highlighted by a solo home run fired over right field by sophomore outfielder Jesse Franklin in his first at-bat of the game –– exactly what happened in Sunday’s 8-0 win against Minnesota.
With Michigan leading 2-0 in the top of the third, Indiana State momentarily threatened to tie the game up after starting left-hander Angelo Smith walked two batters in a row. That threat was quickly extinguished as the Sycamores’ Romero Harris hit a grounder which Michigan turned into a 6-4-3 double play.
“They probably feel like they had multiple scoring opportunities in the first three innings that they couldn’t capitalize on or we stopped,” Bakich said. “Angelo (Smith) pitched us out of some big jams as well.”
The Wolverines’ offense picked up in the bottom of the inning. Singles from Kerr and Blomgren sent two runners home while freshman first baseman Jack Van Remortel scored on a passed ball.
Sophomore catcher Harrison Salter, who started over sophomore Joe Donovan, dropped a sacrifice bunt in a squeeze play to send senior Ako Thomas home and widen Michigan’s lead to 6-0. Salter, who has had limited playing time so far this season, had made his mark on the game with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the second that scored Blomgren.
“Those hits felt great,” Salter said. “We work a lot on situational stuff, and while the team gives me crap for being such a good bunter, we ended up needing it.”
After a lightning-fast fourth inning with 1-2-3 frames for both teams, Indiana State found its offense in the top of the fifth and managed two runs from singles, marking junior right-hander Jack Weisenburger’s first conceded runs of the season.
It seemed initially as though the Wolverines would contain the Sycamores’ offense in the sixth. But with two outs and the bases loaded, a single to center field from Jake Means notched Indiana State another two runs to narrow the score to 6-4.
“We knew even up six that they weren’t going to go away quietly,” Bakich said. “Today was shaping up to be very much like yesterday if it weren’t for the travel curfew.”
With the clock relentlessly ticking toward the 7:30 deadline, the Sycamores were unable to capitalize on this momentum. To allow Indiana State to get on the road, the game was ended after the sixth inning, and Michigan was saved by the bell.