Friday night’s game hung in the balance. Buckeye catcher Dillon Dingler stepped to the plate with his team leading 2-1.
Dingler attempted a bunt that went straight back at junior left-hander Tommy Henry. The ball slipped out of Henry’s hand and his throw went wayward, allowing Dingler to advance all the way to second base.
After that inauspicious start to the fifth inning, Henry imploded. He proceeded to give up three runs on a sacrifice fly and three singles, as Ohio State eventually pulled away to a 10-5 victory over the Michigan baseball team on their way to two wins out of three games.
“When you play good defense you minimize the opponent’s opportunities,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “If you make that difficult play, that’s what I’m talking about. Being able to make the difficult play to take away the hits.
“Those difficult plays end up being a difference-maker in a team scoring zero or maybe only scoring one or two versus not making those plays and what could’ve been a one or two run inning turns into a three or a four or five or a six-run inning.”
Henry didn’t just struggle on defense — he had difficulties on the mound, too. He gave up eight hits and seven earned runs in just four innings while striking out two. Henry didn’t get much help from his relief pitchers, either. Freshman left-hander Walker Cleveland and sophomore right-hander Blake Beers combined to give up three additional runs in 2.2 innings of work.
“Pitching can go into little slumps, too, now just like hitters can,” Bakich said. “Tommy Henry has just had a little bit of a two-week slump here. We haven’t won on a Friday night in conference in a few weeks. He maybe hasn’t been quite as crisp or as sharp as he has been in the past. But, we all have full confidence in the pitcher that he is and the pitcher that he’s gonna be from here on out.”
Saturday afternoon, the Wolverines’ hurlers struggled in pivotal moments. Junior right-hander Karl Kauffman appeared to have better control on the mound, but his periods of solid pitching were mixed in with crucial mistakes. In the second inning, a two-run home run opened the scoring for the Buckeyes. In the third inning, Kauffman gave up a solo home run and later a three-run shot to blow the game open.
But Kauffman remained resilient. He posted nine strikeouts and after Ohio State’s big third inning, had consecutive 1-2-3 innings, allowing his offense to stage a mini-comeback. But unfortunately for the Wolverines, the early deficit was too much to overcome in a 10-4 loss that clinched the weekend series for the Buckeyes.
“The thing Ohio State did is they hit mistakes,” Bakich said. “And we made some mistakes with some pitches, especially in some two strike counts where we were ahead and they hit some home runs and they got some big hits in those moments. So Karl actually had pretty good stuff, he just made some mistakes with some of his pitches and they got hit and we got down to the early deficit.”