Michigan's offense overpowers Central Michigan

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - 8:04pm

Junior right-hand pitcher Alec Rennard pitched four scoreless innings against Central Michigan on Wednesday.

Junior right-hand pitcher Alec Rennard pitched four scoreless innings against Central Michigan on Wednesday. Buy this photo
Claire Meingast/Daily

For a moment, the air evaporated from Ray Fisher Stadium. Fans stared at sophomore left-handed pitcher William Tribucher laying on the mound covering his face with his glove. A hard-hit line drive appeared to have ricocheted off his head. 

Fortunately, prior to hitting Tribucher in the chin, the ball was deflected by his shoulder and he was able to get up and finish off the last batter of the inning.

“He’s tough,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “I didn’t know what I was going to see when I went out to the mound. I was expecting to see at least a little blood, but I saw no blood. He took it off the chin, got back up and said ‘I’m fine.’ ”

In two innings of relief, Tribucher allowed one unearned run on three hits.

Besides this scary instance, there were nothing but smiles for the No. 22 Michigan baseball team (1-2 Big Ten, 19-6 overall) in its 13-4 victory against Central Michigan (0-0 MAC, 10-14 overall). The Wolverines’ offense accumulated 15 hits and scored 13 runs – the team’s second-highest run total of the season. Additionally, every starter reached base for Michigan.

“It’s just been (the team’s) approach,” said junior first baseman Jake Bivens on the team’s recent offensive surge. “Sticking to the plan and getting quality at-bats and that carries over to the next guy and the next guy. Everybody doing their job and trying to play in their comfort zone.”

The Wolverines had a complete team performance in which they put runs on the board early and often.

After producing a run in the first inning off a bloop single to center by junior third baseman Drew Lugbauer, Michigan’s offense exploded with four runs in the second.

The Wolverines quickly loaded the bases after senior catcher Harrison Wenson was hit by a pitch, an infield single legged out by sophomore right fielder Jonathan Engelmann and sophomore second baseman Ako Thomas singled to right.

In the following at-bat, with senior centerfielder Johnny Slater up to the plate, Central Michigan catcher Blake Cleveland gave up a passed ball – allowing Wenson to score. In the same at-bat, Slater blasted an RBI triple to right that narrowly stayed in the ballpark – he leads the team with four triples on the season. After an error from Chippewa first baseman Evan Kratt allowed another run to score, Michigan led 5-0.  

Upon adding an additional run in the fifth off of an error by Central Michigan shortstop Alex Borglin, the Wolverines’ offense again erupted in the seventh.

An inning that featured seven runs was highlighted by a monster two-run homerun by Lugbauer. The ball sailed over the right fielder’s head, out of the stadium and over the neighboring indoor track and field facility.

Bakich credits his team’s recent offensive firepower to “quality at-bats” in which guys are fighting off pitches and working the count.

While Michigan’s offense was on a tear, the team’s pitching was also impressive – allowing only one earned run.

Despite a successful outing from the game’s starter Alec Rennard – in which he allowed no walks, no runs and three hits on just 47 pitches – Bakich pulled the junior right-hander after just four innings. The decision was made in order to make Rennard available either Saturday or Sunday against Penn State.

Heading into their first Big Ten home series of the season, the Wolverines are coming off three straight wins, in which they have outscored their opponents by 25 runs. This type of run differential should give Michigan the confidence it needed as it goes into its upcoming weekend series.