The No. 24 Michigan baseball team entered the bottom of the ninth down by four runs — not an insurmountable deficit by the Wolverines’ standards. When slugger Griffin Mazur came to bat with one on and only one out, he needed just one good swing to put Michigan back in the game.
Instead, the fifth-year catcher swung at the first pitch of the at-bat and produced a weak grounder to the left side. The Maryland infield handled it cleanly, turning a game-ending double play that secured its 7-3 win over the Wolverines and mercifully ended one of Michigan’s most anemic offensive performances of the season.
The Wolverines scored all their runs in the bottom of the second, when fifth-year shortstop Benjamin Sems and sophomore second baseman Ted Burton both hit safely and sophomore left fielder Tito Flores crushed a three-run homer.
“After the three-run homer, I thought for sure we would just keep the scoring going,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “But we didn’t have much going on offensively after the second inning outside of some lineouts and a few walks.”
Even during the productive second inning, Michigan’s hitters showed a crucial lack of discipline: Mazur struck out on three pitches and redshirt sophomore center fielder Jordon Rogers and sophomore designated hitter Joey Velazquez ended the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
The Wolverines had another scoring opportunity in the third, when Sems batted with a runner on base. Sems got under the pitch from Terrapins’ starter Sean Burke and popped out in foul ground to end the inning, a rare occurrence for one of the team leaders in batting average and quality at-bat percentage.
Burke continued to dominate Michigan in the fourth and fifth and the Wolverines’ hitters didn’t make the necessary adjustments in their second and third at-bats against him. Burton struck out on three pitches and Mazur popped out in foul ground. Rogers and fifth-year third baseman Christian Molfetta managed to work full counts before striking out, at least.
Sophomore right fielder Clark Elliott and Sems both made hard contact in the sixth, but the Maryland defense was perfectly positioned to make the play both times.
“Maryland was pitching fine,” Bakich said. “Our fault for not making more hard contact, and the hard contact we made was caught.”
Michigan’s poor performance continued against the bullpen, which, like Burke, forced nearly every hitter into two-strike counts. Mazur struck out on three pitches again and Flores grounded into a double play. In the eighth, the Wolverines put two runners on for sophomore first baseman Jimmy Obertop but a breaking ball missed his bat for an inning-ending strikeout.
“We weren’t really able to string something together,” Elliott said. “We were taking good at-bats sporadically.”
Altogether, Michigan managed only four hits and three walks and struck out 11 times. Molfetta, Mazur and Sems, typically three of the Wolverines’ best and most consistent hitters, went 1-for-11 in their last home game.
“You’d like to see all the seniors hit home runs and have awesome days on senior day,” Bakich said.“But it seems like it never goes to script that way.”
Regionals are only two weeks away, and for Michigan to survive and advance, it will need to hold the strike zone, work deeper into at-bats and move runners around in stressful situations.
Today isn’t the first time the offense has completely abandoned its successful approach in a rubber game, which doesn’t bode well for the pressure-packed games on the horizon.