- Jake Fromm/Daily
BY BEN ESTES
Daily Sports Writer
Published May 30, 2010
COLUMBUS — The look on Mike Dufek’s face said it all.
The senior first baseman slowly trudged into the postgame press conference on Saturday at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus, with an expression filled with pain and disappointment.
And who could blame him?
He had just watched his team blow a seven-run lead, losing to Iowa 11-8 in the conference's loser’s bracket and getting eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament.
Michigan's only hope of returning to the national tournament was to receive an at-large bid by winning the conference tournament.
But instead, the Hawkeyes knocked the Wolverines out of contention, ending their season. For Dufek and the other six seniors, the defeat also meant the end of their careers.
“We were right in it today,” Dufek said. “(I) thought we were going to win it when we had that big lead, (but) they came back. We’ve done it before. It happens to everybody. (We’re) pretty sad right now.”
Just two days before, Michigan steamrolled the Hawkeyes 18-4 in the second round of the tournament.
Iowa took the first lead Thursday, scoring a run in the top of the first inning off senior ace right-hander Alan Oaks. But the Wolverines answered with one of their own in the home half, and followed it by plating six runs in the second to take the lead for good.
Led by junior leftfielder Ryan LaMarre’s four hits and four RBI and Oaks’ solid performance, Michigan cruised the rest of the way to set up a meeting with Minnesota in the semifinals.
Maloney said after Thursday’s win that it would be crucial for redshirt freshman left-hander Bobby Brosnahan, who was to start Friday against the Golden Gophers, to “give (Michigan) a chance to win” against the No. 1 seed.
He did just that, battling through leg pain from the fourth inning on to allow just one run and five hits over six masterful innings. Aided by outstanding defense from freshman centerfielder Patrick Biondi, Brosnahan’s performance allowed Michigan to take a 3-0 lead.
But Minnesota cut the deficit to 3-1 with a run in the seventh, causing Maloney to bring in closer and junior right-hander Tyler Burgoon. The Defiance, Ohio native had been lights-out all season from the bullpen, but with the bases loaded, the Gophers’ Trip Schultz singled and Troy Larson walked, tying the game at three.
And in the 11th frame, Minnesota completed the comeback, as junior right-hander Matt Miller could not retire a batter before Kyle Knudson singled, sending home the winning run. Michigan’s offense lay helpless from the seventh inning forward, leaving six men on base.
“It was a pretty wild college baseball game,” Maloney said after Friday’s loss. “Two teams really laying their heart on the line … Unfortunately, we came up on the short end of the stick … we took some pitches that the umpire thought were strikes, and for some of our kids, they thought they were close. But if they’re close enough, you’ve got to be swinging at them. We took too many.”
The Wolverines had no time to dwell on the heartbreaking loss, though, as they had a rematch with Iowa the next day and needed to win three games in two days (including two over Minnesota) to keep their season alive.
At first, the Hawkeyes appeared as if they would hand over another easy win for Michigan. After a scoreless first three innings, the Wolverines scored eight over the next three and led 8-1 going into the bottom of the sixth.
But that’s when the pitching meltdown began.
Starting pitcher and sophomore right-hander Brandon Sinnery was pulled in the sixth after allowing five runs (four earned). Redshirt junior right-hander Matt Gerbe then allowed two, and it quickly became a one-run lead for Michigan.
Iowa came right back to score four more times in the bottom of the eighth off junior right-hander Kolby Wood and Miller, taking the definitive 11-8 lead.
With three straight outs in its last at-bat in the top of the ninth, the 2010 season ended quietly for the Michigan baseball team. For the second straight game (and continuing a theme that had been prevalent all season), the Wolverines experienced a crushing defeat, one that could have gone either way.
But this time, there was no next game to help them forget about it.
“This (game), kind of, was a microcosm of our season,” Maloney said. “We had leads several times over, and we just weren’t able to hold them. It’s unfortunate … I feel for the kids, because you never want to lose a game like we did.
“We just got to get better, and that’s what I told the kids in there … We just fell a little bit short in climbing that mountain this year. Hopefully, next year and in the future, we’ll get back on top. “