Michigan launches itself into first after a dominant showing over Rutgers

Sunday, April 28, 2019 - 4:49pm

The Michigan baseball team swept Rutgers this weekend.

The Michigan baseball team swept Rutgers this weekend. Buy this photo
Evan Aaron/Daily

Rutgers came close to beating Michigan once over the three-game series.

On Sunday, in the top of the eighth inning, a single, a poor decision to throw to second instead of first and a passed ball put runners on second and third. Then, a sacrifice fly scored a run to tie the game at one. Freshman right-hander Willie Weiss then came on, and was one ball away from walking a runner in to go down, 2-1.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, Weiss threw three straight strikes to walk off the mound with sophomore catcher Joe Donovan pumping his fist. Donovan went on to hit a walk-off home run to hand the Wolverines a 4-1 win.

“Pitching, defense, timely hitting,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “Jeff Criswell gave us an outstanding start, Willie Weiss made some big pitches when he needed to. To think that the bases were loaded in a 3-0 count and he comes back to throw three straight strikes to get out of the jam.”

The Wolverines were just better than the Scarlet Knights, in every sense of the word.

Rutgers hit at a .141 clip over the weekend and only had one extra base hit — a three hop double over third baseman Blake Nelson’s head on Sunday. The Scarlet Knights also scored more than one run just once, with three garbage time runs in the ninth inning on Friday that cut the score to 8-3.

When it came to mistakes, Michigan simply didn’t make as many. Rutgers tallied five errors on the series, whereas the Wolverines had a meek two. On Friday, Scarlet Knight players struggled to track pop-ups throughout the game, losing sight and watching balls drop past them over and over again.

Michigan didn’t.

“The defense that we played between Donovan, (who) throws out a guy, back-picks a guy,” Bakich said. “Brewer throws a guy out trying to tag up to third, and some of the plays Blomgren made up the middle.”

Coming in to the series, Rutgers and the Wolverines were just separated by just two games in the Big Ten standings, Michigan at 8-3 and the Scarlet Knights at 7-5. It was a big series for both teams, and the Wolverines played like it from the very first at-bat.

In every game, the Wolverines led by the end of the third inning. It was a display of dominance marked by one nervous moment at the end of pitching-dominated game on Sunday.

Now, Michigan is first in the Big Ten and Rutgers is dust in the wind.