Graduate transfer catcher Griffin Mazur swung at the three-two offering in the eighth inning and launched a high fly ball deep into the left-center gap. Sophomore outfielder Clark Elliot motored around the bases, looking to score if the ball landed.
It never did. The Rutgers center fielder made a running catch to put an end to the Wolverines scoring threat.
Michigan (19-8 Big Ten) threatened the Scarlet Knights (13-13) several times, but could not come up with the big hit in a 4-2 defeat on Saturday.
In the second inning, the Wolverines got runners on base but could not capitalize on the opportunities. Graduate transfer shortstop Benjamin Sems led off the inning with a double, but was caught stealing third. Sophomore outfielder Tito Flores then drew a walk and junior infielder Riley Bertram singled. Sems would likely have scored on this hit and the team would have had a chance at a big inning if Sems had not run into an out.
“We didn’t string together enough quality at-bats,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “We had our chances, we just didn’t generate enough offense.
Michigan broke through in the fifth inning, collecting two runs, despite not getting a hit. Flores reached on an error, then stole third after sophomore infielder Ted Burton walked. Bertram then drew a walk and a wild pitch scored Flores to give the Wolverines the lead. Redshirt sophomore outfielder Jordan Rogers collected an RBI in the next at-bat with a sacrifice fly.
On the mound, Michigan got another strong start from sophomore right-hander Cameron Weston, who tossed five scoreless frames to open the game. Weston continued his hot streak after tossing 6.2 and seven innings scoreless in his previous two outings.
“(Getting ahead) is a big focus of our pitching coach,” junior left-hander Jack White said. “Coach Merriman always hammers that point home, if we’re pitching ahead it’s a lot easier to get outs so that’s a big focus of our staff.”
Weston’s magic would wear out in the sixth. Two hits and a walk left the bases loaded with no outs, and Weston would give way to graduate student right-hander Joe Pace. Pace picked up a strikeout, but then gave up a bases-clearing triple to left-center — giving Rutgers a 3-2 lead. The next batter would single to bring in a fourth run. Whitecame in to quiet the storm and threw three scoreless innings, but the damage was already done.
On offense, the Wolverine bats remained quiet the rest of the way. After going three up, three down in the sixth and seventh innings, Mazur’s deep fly out in the eighth was the closest Michigan came to scoring until the final inning.
“One of the ways that we create offense, we draw a lot of walks,” Bakich said. “(Rutgers pitcher Ben Wereski) wasn’t walking us today. He just did a good job throwing three pitches for strikes and kept us off balance.”
In the ninth inning, sophomore infielder Jimmy Obertop made his return from injury with a pinch-hit single and Flores then walked. But Burton and Bertram both popped out, ending the scoring threat. The Wolverines dropped a key game in its quest for the Big Ten title, falling two games behind Nebraska in the loss column.
Weston gave the Wolverines a strong performance on the mound. But the offense failed to match the productive outing, falling short in key moments.
“He put us in a good spot,” Elliott said. “The offense just couldn’t come through for us today.”