It was a tale of two games.
Hard-fought, early and frequent trips to the bullpen and inefficient offense until a sudden burst at the very end.
Offensive dominance, solid starting pitching and departure from the previous day’s sluggish play.
This was how the Michigan baseball team (12-2 Big Ten, 27-13 overall) fared against Eastern Michigan (9-9 Mid-American, 16-26) in its home-and-home series on Tuesday and Wednesday winning both 6-4 and 12-5, respectively.
Giving the audience a flare for the dramatic, the Wolverines decided to make Friday’s game a nail-biter.
Michigan was playing from behind nearly the entire contest, finding itself in a four-to-one hole after four innings. The Eagles had consistent offense all game, highlighted by a two-run third inning. The big outing for Eastern Michigan began off the bat of Kolton Schenker, who cranked an RBI single to left-center field.
In an attempt to squash the offensive outpouring from the Eagles, the Wolverines made frequent calls on their pitching staff. The small strip of rubber on the mound saw the likes of senior right-hander Jayce Vancena, junior right-hander Troy Miller, freshman left-hander Angelo Smith and sophomore right-hander Jack Weisenburger.
Heading into the eighth inning, Michigan trailed 4 to 2 and a sense of urgency started to kick in. There were two innings left to make strides towards victory, and big plays were needed.
Enter senior catcher Brock Keener.
Keener stepped to the plate with bases loaded due to two walks and a single from his teammates. Then, with all the glory of a go-ahead blast swirling through his head, the catcher slapped a bases-clearing triple to deep center-right field.
The dugout quickly clearedas the jubilant Wolverines rushed to mob the baserunners storming home who viciously stomped on the plate, making a statement as they scored each run. Quickly following, freshman shortstop Jack Blomgren hit a sacrifice fly to left field to bring Keener home.
In one quick swing of the bat, Michigan had gone from a two-run deficit to a momentum-stealing two-run lead — an advantage it would hold for the remainder of the game.
Keener’s heroics demonstrated the depth of the Wolverine lineup. Michigan can threaten offensively up-and-down its lineup with any member of its squad willing and able to send an equalizing hit anywhere in the field.
It didn’t matter that Keener typically hits in the eight-spot — it just matters that he gave his team the at-bat it so desperately needed.
The next game had no need to rely on late-game saves, as Michigan found much more offensive success.
After surviving the first four innings with nothing to show for it, the Wolverines then exploded onto the scene in the fifth inning putting up an astounding seven runs.
No one could seem to miss as eight different Michigan players would secure hits, capped off by a two-run homer from sophomore Dominic Clement. But the hitting wouldn’t stop there. The Wolverines would tack another three runs on the scoreboard in the sixth inning, ultimately ending the Washtenaw County showdown for good.
Giving Michigan a solid first four innings of starting pitching was senior Alec Rennard. As the righty gradually returns from injury, he looks to take a larger role and take games into deeper innings while growing his arm strength back.
Across the two matchups, the Wolverines displayed their versatility and varying playing styles, showing all observers that they’re capable of winning in multiple ways in different arenas.