Over the course of Michigan’s young baseball season, junior left-hander Tommy Henry has established himself as the ace of the Wolverines’ rotation. He went undefeated over his first five starts, allowing just two runs to cross the plate over those 35 innings, both to No. 1 UCLA. He still came out of the day with a win, as the Wolverines went on to defeat the Bruins, 7-5.
Thursday, however, was a different story. Despite not allowing a single earned run, Henry took his first loss decision as the Wolverines fell to No. 19 Texas Tech, 11-2, in the first contest of a mistake-laden three-game series for Michigan this weekend.
Against some of their toughest competition of the season so far, the 23rd-ranked Wolverines could not find a rhythm, as the Red Raiders took all three games of the series. Though a 16-6 win over Stetson on Saturday night was a bright spot on the weekend, Texas Tech overpowered the Wolverines across the board in every contest this weekend.
“Texas Tech is just better than we are, and they outplayed us all weekend long,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “They were better than us in all the phases of the game – offensively, defensively, on the mound and in the bullpen. They’re an elite program, and they’re the best team and the most complete team not only that we’ve seen this season, but one of the best teams I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
The beginning of Thursday’s game was a pitcher’s duel between Henry and Red Raiders right-hander Micah Dallas. The Wolverines put a run on the board in the top of the fourth inning, but Texas Tech answered by breaking the game open with six runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. They added a run in both the sixth and seventh innings and tacked on three more in the eighth en route to a comfortable victory.
Friday was more of the same. The Red Raiders were on the board first with a run in the first inning, but Michigan answered with runs in the fourth and fifth innings to jump out to a one-run lead. But fielding woes for the Wolverines helped Texas Tech to a five-run sixth inning. The Red Raiders went on to add three more in the seventh, and though the Wolverines were able to score a run in the eighth inning to bring the score to 10-3, they could not manage a comeback.
Michigan showed some fight in their first game on Saturday, the conclusion of the Texas Tech series. Though the Red Raiders were again the first to put a run on the board, the Wolverines answered with a four-run third inning to take the lead. The Red Raiders kept the game close, though, scoring two runs of their own in the bottom of the third. They later tied it, tacking on another run in the fourth. Both teams added a run in the fifth inning. But Texas Tech grabbed the lead with two runs in the seventh inning. And when they added another in the eighth off freshman right-hander Willie Weiss to bring the score to 8-5, Michigan could not come up with an answer.
“We couldn’t hold them down in the bullpen,” Bakich said. “They sped the game up on us defensively. They ran out one mid-to-upper-nineties pitcher after another. And we weren’t able to handle it as well as we would’ve liked to. They were just better. We can’t make any excuses for that.”
The Wolverines flipped the script in Saturday’s second game, when they beat Stetson, 16-6. Every Michigan starter had at least one hit, including one home run from sophomore outfielder Jesse Franklin and two from junior outfielder Jordan Brewer. Michigan’s offense showed its explosive potential in the game – they had two four-run innings and a three-run inning. Still, though, its lack of offensive consistency coupled with defensive woes against an extremely-capable Red Raider offense led to a disappointing Texas swing for the Wolverines.
“Growth is a big part of who we are as a program,” Bakich said. “I haven’t lost a single ounce of confidence in our team, and in what kind of team that we’re going to have this year. We’re on the right track. They’re ahead of us right now, but we’re getting there. I’m glad that we had this type of weekend now instead of in a regional where our season would be over. This was a very beneficial trip for us.”