Redshirt sophomore left-hander Steven Hajjar stood on the mound in the top of the fifth, ready to face his next Maryland batter. The Terrapins, who boasted a five-game win streak coming into the game, had put the Wolverines behind 2-0 following a wild pitch and an error in the third.
After Hajjar threw the pitch, Maryland catcher Justin Vought immediately crushed the ball into left field for the home run, initiating the Terrapins’ offense for a big four-hit, four-run inning.
Hajjar, one of the best pitchers in the Big Ten, was relieved early by redshirt junior right-hander Isaiah Paige in the sixth inning. Like déjà vu, Vought hit another home run to left-field on the second at-bat of the inning, effectively ending the Wolverines’ hopes to win the game.
Hajjar’s uncharacteristic struggles, along with the rest of the pitching staff, proved to be detrimental for Michigan on Friday. He put the Wolverines in an early hole, forcing them to rally and ultimately come up short in an 11-8 defeat.
“Steve did a good job of getting out of the inning, getting the ground ball he needed,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “Unfortunately we didn’t make the play and made two errors on the one play. It was just a sloppy play, it looked sloppy. It just unraveled there a little bit in the fifth. I thought (Hajjar) was going to minimize that inning, it just didn’t turn out that way.”
It’s no surprise that Michigan fell behind early; it’s been the team’s most consistent characteristic throughout this season. However, it was the pitching staff’s poor performance that allowed the Terrapins to notch 11 runs off of 11 hits and six errors.
Hajjar put up a poor stat line, allowing six runs (two earned), five hits, three walks and a wild pitch. Page didn’t do much better — giving up two runs on three hits in just one inning of work.
Despite outhitting Maryland 15-11, there was a clear disparity in the two teams’ ability to string together quality at-bats, with the Wolverines only being able to narrow the score until it was already too late.
Michigan found a way to muster one of its patented rallies in the ninth and managed to tie the game at eight, after trailing 8-3 entering the final frame. As the back-and-forth matchup entered extra innings, the Wolverines hoped their pitching staff would redeem themselves from the earlier blunders.
But once again, they failed to deliver.
Junior right-handed pitcher Will Proctor worked a scoreless 10th but couldn’t replicate that success in the 11th. Proctor hit the first batter he faced, walked the next one and then allowed an RBI double and was promptly yanked from the game. Freshman left handed pitcher Logan Wood relived Proctor and got all three outs — but not before allowing two more runs to score.
By the time the dust settled, Michigan was trailing by three runs and this time, there would be no storybook ending for the Wolverines.
One thing has become quite clear for Michigan: the battle for the Big Ten is no longer a three-team race. Other than Nebraska and Indiana, Maryland has emerged as a clear contender in the conference, and the Wolverines’ next two games against the Terrapins could be critical for its Big Ten title aspirations. If they want to win, they’ll need a better performance from their pitching staff all around.
“It’s a tough lesson to learn,” Bakich said. “You gave a good team too many freebies whether it be errors or extra 90’s in the first six innings. They capitalized on our mistakes.”