The No. 13 Michigan baseball team suffered an uncharacteristic loss to Indiana on Friday evening. Behind a lackluster offensive performance from the Wolverines and many impactful defensive plays from the Hoosiers, Michigan fell, 1-0.
Indiana wasted no time in getting on the board. In the top of the first inning, infielder Tony Butler knocked the second pitch of the game over the wall in left-center field. Junior left-hander Oliver Jaskie didn’t seem phased, though, as he retired the next nine batters he faced.
After two walks and a hit to right field, Indiana threatened to put more runs on the board in the sixth inning, loading the bases with only one out. The Wolverine infielders gathered around Jaskie to discuss the situation, which clearly worked as Jaskie struck out the next two batters to eliminate the threat.
“We just talk about how we love each other and how it’s a group of brothers out there,” Jaskie said. “Everyone has each other’s back and we’re just out there competing for each other.
“Focusing on my teammates, knowing they’re behind me to make plays. Just doing absolutely everything I can to compete for them.”
The seventh inning was no easier, though, as the Hoosiers opened up the inning with two bunts. Originally, catcher Ryan Fineman was called out at first after junior first baseman Jake Bivens tagged the base. But after complaints from the Indiana coaches, the umpires decided Jaskie interfered with Fineman on the basepath. That left two men on base with no outs.
But Jaskie and senior right-hander Mac Lozer teamed up for two strikeouts and a groundout, respectively, to end the inning and take away any momentum the Hoosiers may have had.
Jaskie finished his outing after 6.2 innings, with 10 strikeouts, two walks and one run.
But the Wolverines’ bats never got hot enough to challenge Indiana.
It appeared that Michigan’s offense was going to pick up in the third inning. Sophomore second baseman Jimmy Kerr was up to bat after he came in to the game for sophomore Ako Thomas — who injured his wrist during his at bat. Kerr has just 42 at bats on the year, but still managed to notch a single up the middle.
The two-out rally was halted, though, after senior shortstop Michael Brdar popped up to third base to strand Kerr and senior centerfielder Johnny Slater on base.
It wasn’t just stellar pitching by Indiana’s pitching staff — who held Michigan to a .182 batting average and notched eight strikeouts — but the impressive defensive plays as well. In the top of the seventh inning, the Hoosiers made two diving catches in the outfield, taking away multiple extra-base hits that could have easily pushed the momentum in the Wolverines’ favor.
The spectacular plays didn’t end there. Bivens almost started what could have been a ninth-inning rally with a line drive through the first and second base gap. But Hoosier first baseman Matt Gorski made a diving catch for the second out. Sophomore designated hitter Nick Poirier struck out swinging to seal the win for Indiana.
“I thought there were plenty of opportunities where we could’ve used a big hold from a pitching and defensive standpoint, where there were runners in scoring position and we held them from scoring and put a zero up, where that momentum could have shifted over offensively,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “It just didn’t happen tonight. They made some nice, defensive plays, some web-gem plays — just an uncharacteristic offense night for us.”
The Wolverines still have a chance to take the series, but they will need to return to their dominant offensive ways if they hope to accomplish that.