Michigan pitching overwhelms Lipscomb
“Strike three” is just about all Lipscomb heard this past weekend in its series against the Michigan baseball team, as the Wolverines’ pitching staff accumulated 36 strikeouts throughout the three-game series.
No. 24 Michigan (12-3) went down to Nashville, Tenn., for a three-game series against a relatively unknown Lipscomb squad (8-7). Despite being unfamiliar — they had never played prior to this weekend — the teams played a hard-fought series.
“They’re really good,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich on WTKA radio. “(They are) probably the best team that our fans have never heard of.”
Originally scheduled to play a game each day over the weekend, the teams were forced to switch the series format due to projected inclement weather on Saturday. Instead, the teams played a doubleheader on Friday before resuming action on Sunday.
In the first game of the series, the Wolverines continued their recent dominance, defeating Lipscomb 8-2. Michigan showed no signs of weakness in any of the three phases of play.
Offensively, senior centerfielder Johnny Slater led the team, going 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored. With a three-run lead in the ninth, Slater iced the game for the Wolverines, belting a three-run home run — his first of the season — to produce the game’s final score.
Michigan received another outstanding pitching performance from junior left-hander Oliver Jaskie. Over six innings, Jaskie surrendered just three hits while the Bisons only managed one run. Jaskie also recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts.
The Wolverines looked to continue their momentum in the second game of the doubleheader, but success didn’t come as easily.
Despite jumping out to an early lead after a third-inning solo home run by sophomore first baseman Jimmy Kerr, Michigan trailed for the majority of the second game following three one-run innings by the Bison.
Heading into the top of the ninth, down 3-1, the Wolverines mounted a comeback off the bat of sophomore right fielder Jonathan Engelmann. After a Lipscomb error cut the deficit to 3-2, Engelmann pinch-hit with two men on base. And in his lone at-bat of the game, he belted a grounder past a diving Bison third baseman, scoring two and giving Michigan the advantage it needed for the 4-3 victory.
Coach Bakich credited the team’s mental approach to the sport in their ability to win games after trailing.
“I like our team’s mindset,” Bakich said. “I like our attack. I like the way we fight. We have a group of fighters. There is no quit in this team. They fight every pitch.”
In addition to their mental toughness, the Wolverines’ success in the doubleheader stemmed from their dominant pitching. Out of the 54 outs between the first two games, Michigan struck out an impressive 27 batters.
In the final game of the series, Michigan’s pitching proved to again overwhelm Lipscomb, as the pitching staff accumulated nine total strikeouts en route to a 5-0 victory.
The Wolverines gained a 2-0 lead in the top of the first that they would never surrender. Sophomore second baseman Ako Thomas scored the first run of the game off a groundout by fellow sophomore leftfielder Miles Lewis. In the very next at-bat, senior catcher Harrison Wenson hit a solo shot.
The victory marked the Wolverines 12th of the season and ninth in their last 10 games. During the 10-game stretch, the pitching staff has let up three runs or fewer nine times.
Despite the early-season success, Coach Bakich recognizes there is still plenty of work to be done.
“We have to get better in some areas,” Bakich said. “While we draw a lot of walks, we also strike out too much. And while we’ve had good starting performances from our pitchers these last two weeks, we have to make sure our bullpen comes in and isn’t putting the tying and winning runs on base via hit or walk.”