Coming into its Wednesday game against Eastern Michigan, the Michigan baseball team was in a rough patch. It had suffered its first home loss this past weekend, had been pummeled Tuesday in East Lansing and had been struggling to hit.
The Wolverines (3-2 Big Ten, 22-9 overall) were ready to take out their frustration. Not only did they best the Eagles (13-17) at Ray Fisher Stadium, they raced to a 19-3 win.
Matt Ramsay started the damage in the first inning with two consecutive stolen bases and the first run of the day — sparking the team’s early 4-0 lead.
“I love stealing bases — that’s part of my game,” the fifth-year senior said. “We picked up on some of their tells early on in the game, and (the Eastern Michigan pitchers) were pretty slow to the plate. So I knew if I got on base early I would have the opportunity to steal some bases. Luckily, I was safe.”
Senior centerfielder Cody Bruder led the team’s charge with five runs batted in and 4-for-5 hitting. Other impressive performances came from four pinch-hitters Bakich put in the bottom of the seventh. Two of the pinch-hitters were freshman Jimmy Kerr, who had two runs, and sophomore Matt Ross, who got his first collegiate hit.
“I’m happy we won, but I’m more pleased with the way we played,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “(Ross) has been patient for 30 games and was finally able to play in the 31st (of the season) and then gets his first hit. You can’t draw it up better than that. (Kerr) delivers a quality at-bat that’s resulted in a base hit every time. Maybe we need to start giving them more opportunities.”
Added Kerr: “I want to take every opportunity to get on base and to get an RBI. I wanted to keep the inning going and just get to the next guy.”
Eastern Michigan made six pitching substitutions, starting in the top of the second. Freshman Gary Clift Jr. made his first career appearance and struck out Michigan’s first batter, freshman Ako Thomas, keeping Michigan off the board in the inning.
In the bottom of the third, the Wolverines extended their lead by four more runs, including a bases-clearing double to left field by fifth-year senior Dominc Jamett.
The Eagles were still scoreless in the top of the fifth, so Bakich took the opportunity to substitute in freshman pitcher Troy Miller for Nutof.
“It was great to put the game away early,” Ramsay said. “I think a lot of it has do with the pitchers, (Nutof) did a good job of staying in the zone and being low in the zone and incorporating his defense by staying low in the strikes. I think when you have pitchers filling up that space it just makes the defense better.”
Eastern Michigan got on the board in the seventh inning when Eagle junior catcher Jeremy Stidham tripled to right center. Stidham scored the first run of the day for his team — it just wasn’t nearly enough.
Michigan finished with 19 runs and nine Wolverines scored. Junior catcher Harrison Wenson, Benedetti and Bruder all scored four runs each.
But though Jamett — who played as catcher later in the game — didn’t tally any runs, Bakich thinks the designated hitter was instrumental to the team’s success despite his minimal playing time this season.
“He’s a senior, he’s a captain and he stands for all the right things,” Bakich said. “He represents everything that’s great about Michigan. He’s cemented into the foundation of the program. I thought it was an opportunity he deserved. He knows that he just wants to make a positive contribution anyway he can and he was happy to take advantage of that today.”
Bakich made it clear that he felt Michigan not only won the game, it won each inning. That's a feeling he's happy to get back.