There were two games and two stories Saturday for the No. 2 seed Michigan baseball team.
The Wolverines were fighting for their lives for the third day in a row after an opening day loss to Ohio State put them in the backdraw, where they walked-off against No. 3 seed Illinois and beat No. 6 seed Maryland to set up a semifinal game with No. 5 seed Nebraska. The Wolverines overwhelmingly won the first game, 18-8, but lost the second of the doubleheader, 7-3, therefore getting eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament.
But to get to the nightcap, Michigan had to come up with an early morning victory. And it was seemingly the only team awake as the Wolverines scored seven runs in the first inning and never looked back during the easy victory.
At night, though, the Wolverines didn’t race to an early lead.
Sophomore left-hander Angelo Smith was cool under pressure for the first eight outs of the game, breezing past batters with well-placed sliders. But with two outs in the third, the Cornhuskers sandwiched a walk with two infield hits to load the bases before a single passed senior third baseman Blake Nelson for the first two runs of the game. Michigan halved the lead in the bottom of the inning, though, off of sophomore center fielder Jesse Franklin’s RBI single.
The fifth inning gave Nebraska one more run, when sophomore catcher Joe Donovan threw over second base to move Nebraska third baseman Angelo Altavilla from first to third with two outs. The next batter, Michigan native and Cornhuskers' shortstop Spencer Schwellenbach, lifted a pitch to left field for his third RBI of the game, putting the Cornhuskers up 3-1.
The response was immediate from the Wolverines. Three straight singles loaded the bases and sophomore shortstop Jack Blomgren moved a runner in after being hit by a pitch. Senior first baseman Jimmy Kerr launched a 370-foot sacrifice fly to even the game 3-3, but two straight outs left runners on base, and an opportunity to grab their first lead of the game disappeared.
Nebraska scored twice the very next inning behind four walks to go up 5-3 in the sixth. Senior right-hander Ben Keizer throwing the first two before allowing a double gave the Cornhuskers the lead and freshman right-hander Willie Weiss came on in relief, only to throw two more walks and give up yet another run.
The deficit grew as Michigan’s offense disappeared and walks continued to plague its pitchers.
Ending the night with 13 walks, the Wolverine bullpen had been worn down by five games in four days and were lucky to only lose by 4 — Nebraska left 16 runners on base. Smith could only go 4.2 innings, and once he was gone, no one could adequately fill his shoes.
In the morning, Michigan showed it can outplay any team in the conference with ease. But at night, the Wolverines proved they can beat themselves as easily as they can beat others.