After taking a strike, sophomore designated hitter Ted Burton stepped back into the batter’s box and pulled the second pitch of his fourth-inning at-bat over the left-field wall for a solo home run. The homer, and junior second baseman Riley Bertram’s third-inning double, looked like signs that the Michigan baseball team had figured out Connecticut starter Austin Peterson and would begin to pile on the offense.
Instead, Burton’s homer would be the second and final hit registered by the Wolverines in their 6-1 loss to the Huskies. Michigan threatened in other ways, walking six times and getting hit by three pitches, but the offense completely failed to capitalize on those scoring opportunities, hitting 0-11 with runners on base.
“We drew a lot of walks and had some hit-by-pitches tonight, but we just didn’t hit,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “It was not a good offensive day for us, and that was the difference.”
The Wolverines put their first men on base in the top of the third. After two quick outs, Bertram’s double brought up the top of the order, and when sophomore right fielder Clark Elliott followed with a walk, Michigan threatened a two-out rally that could change the momentum of the game. But sophomore left fielder Tito Flores, batting far above his usual position in the seven-hole, ended the inning by lining out.
Sophomore first baseman Jimmy Obertop began the top of the fifth by getting hit by a pitch, but his teammates couldn’t take advantage of the leadoff baserunner. Fifth-year center fielder Christan Bullock and Bertram struck out swinging and Elliott flew out.
“I think guys were trying to do a little bit too much,” redshirt sophomore left-hander Steven Hajjar said.
Long swings and a lack of plate discipline have been hallmarks of the Wolverines’ worst defeats this season, including last night’s.
When Flores and Burton both reached base in the sixth, they attempted a double steal of second and third in an effort to break the 1-1 tie. Flores was thrown out at third. Fifth-year catcher Griffin Mazur followed with a walk, but the second flyout of the inning ended the threat.
“I liked our preparation and I liked our approach,” Bakich said. “We made too much weak contact and too many outs in the air.”
The top of the ninth opened with yet another flyout before Obertop and Bullock drew consecutive walks. Michigan couldn’t punish Connecticut for pitching around them; Bertram and Elliott struck out swinging to end the game, recording the ninth and tenth strikeouts in the process.
The offense now has the unenviable task of rebounding in the high-stakes, must-win game against Central Michigan tomorrow. The Wolverines are confident in their ability to do just that.
“If we play like we played tonight, the season is going to be over tomorrow,” Bakich said. “If I know these guys the way I think I know these guys, they’ll respond.”
Added Hajjar: “I’m expecting the bats to be getting hot right about now. They’re warming them up as we speak, I think, and by tomorrow they’ll be red hot.”