BY BEN ESTES
Daily Sports Writer
Published April 25, 2010
It’s a maddening feeling, for fans and players alike, to have to sit back and watch your team helplessly flail at the baseball, powerless to scratch out more than a couple of runs.
Ryan LaMarre had a front-row seat.
The junior Michigan outfielder had to watch from the on-deck circle as redshirt junior Anthony Toth struck out swinging to end the second game of Friday’s doubleheader against Iowa.
Toth became the Wolverines’ ninth strikeout victim of the game, a higher tally than the number of hits the team managed on the afternoon (eight). LaMarre had three of them, but with the first two batters in the order combining to go 0-for-10, there were few opportunities for timely hitting and the ones that did present themselves were not taken advantage of.
Michigan scored just five runs combined in the two games Friday. Unsurprisingly, both results were losses. The Wolverines pitched well enough to win, but their offense was nowhere to be found after busting out for 13 runs last Wednesday in South Bend.
“Our offense has been there the whole year,” LaMarre said. “We just couldn’t come up with a timely hit. That’s, I think, the most frustrating part. Just to come out and really lay an egg like we did is just disappointing.”
Part of the reason was the performance of the Hawkeyes’ two starters. Left-hander Jared Hippen (3-3, 3.46) is one of the better hurlers in the conference, having shut down No. 3 Texas to the tune of one earned run and eight strikeouts in 8.1 innings pitched in Iowa’s 2-1, 10-inning loss on March 12.
When Michigan and Iowa matched up last year in Iowa City, Hippen was masterful in striking out nine Wolverines over 6.2 innings, and he was just as dominant in the first game Friday, pitching a complete game and allowing just two runs.
And even though Iowa's starter in the second game, right-hander Nick Brown (3-4, 6.34), had pitched considerably worse than Hippen this year — the Wolverines wouldn’t have known it. Brown also allowed just two runs, going 6.2 innings to pick up the win.
“It was just one of those days,” senior catcher Chris Berset said. “You’ve got to give credit to the pitchers over there, they pitched a hell of a ballgame. (They were) in and out, just mixing their speeds. They kept us off-balance, and they pitched a great game.”
Michigan coach Rich Maloney was happy that his team rebounded mentally and that its offense returned for the series finale Saturday, as the Wolverines pounded out 14 hits and seven runs to get the win and avoid the sweep.
But the team’s offensive power outage in the two games Friday ensured a series victory for the visiting Hawkeyes, pushing the Wolverines a step back in the Big Ten race.
“We just didn’t get it done,” Maloney said. “We had a lot of opportunities. They got the timely hit, we didn’t.”
Dennis disappears: A notable absence from Michigan’s lineup recently has been freshman shortstop Derek Dennis.
Maloney revealed Saturday that the Ada native is, in fact, injured, though the nature of it is unclear. Dennis apparently hurt his arm while sliding last weekend at Illinois.
He played last Tuesday against Notre Dame, but has sat out every game since, with what Maloney calls a “day-to-day” injury. He does expect him back for the series with Big Ten-leading Ohio State which starts Friday.
And the Wolverines haven’t suffered badly in Dennis’ absence. Senior Mike Kittle has filled in at second base with Toth moving over to shortstop. The defense has remained solid, and Kittle has provided an offensive boost, as Dennis is among the Big Ten leaders in strikeouts.
Notes: Berset’s 0-for-4 performance in the first game Friday snapped his career best 21-game hit streak. He hit safely in the subsequent two games of the series … LaMarre is now hitting .500 for the season after collecting four hits Saturday … Junior right-hander Tyler Burgoon, who has been used almost exclusively out of the bullpen, recorded his team-leading sixth win of the season after relieving sophomore right-hander Brandon Sinnery Saturday.