Wolverines sweep weekend amidst offensive show and Boilermaker lapses
With three consecutive walks in the seventh inning Sunday from sophomore second baseman Jimmy Kerr, redshirt freshman utility player Joe Pace and senior catcher Harrison Wenson, the No. 16 Michigan baseball team increased its lead to 4-0.
The Wolverines (14-7 Big Ten, 39-12 overall) traveled to West Lafayette to take on Purdue (10-11 Big Ten, 26-24 overall) in their second-to-last three-game series of the season before the Big Ten Tournament. The team proved that fatigue is not in its vocabulary as they swept the Boilermakers.
Michigan traveled to West Lafayette coming off of a 4-3 loss to Central Michigan Wednesday. But junior left-hander Oliver Jaskie took the mound Friday to bring the Wolverines back on track against the Boilermakers.
“These guys have been very consistent all year,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “We got knocked down a couple of times throughout the year, but we’ve gotten back up every time.”
Senior shortstop Michael Brdar helped Jaskie do just that in the top of the first inning, as a two-out triple to right field and subsequent passed ball gave the Wolverines a one-run lead.
Junior first baseman Jake Bivens followed up Brdar’s hit with a two-out triple to right center field in the top of the third inning. Senior centerfielder Johnny Slater lined an RBI triple down the right field line to send Bivens home for Michigan’s second and last run.
Purdue could not seem to overpower the Wolverines’ defense, as the Wolverines’ sole error paired with Jaskie’s four-hit, no-run performance was simply too strong for the Boilermakers to muster any runs. Michigan took the series opener, 2-0.
The Wolverines continued their onslaught Saturday for a late second matchup against Purdue that saw more offense from both sides, and Michigan prevailed again, 9-4.
Consistent with its performances throughout the season, Michigan started the game off strong as Bivens led off with a walk and then stole second. Slater hit a liner to right field for an RBI single to send Bivens home. Slater later advanced to third on a steal, and an overthrow from the catcher allowed him to tack on another run to the Wolverines’ lead, 2-0.
“They certainly fueled some run-scoring innings,” Bakich said. “That’s been part of our deal all year. We’re a very fast team, so we can apply pressure in that regard in terms of forcing mistakes.”
Junior right-hander Alec Rennard stepped up to the slab and delivered a shut-out performance through the first three innings until two hits in the bottom of the fourth inning led to a 2-2 equalizer for Purdue.
Junior right-hander Ryan Nutof relieved Rennard in the fifth inning to force a groundout that would save Michigan from a bases-loaded situation.
The Bivens-Slater dynamic duo shone again in the sixth inning as a Bivens double followed up by a single from Slater allowed the Wolverines to retake their position on top, 3-2. After advancing to third base, redshirt sophomore left fielder Miles Lewis laid down a suicide squeeze bunt, and in fantastic fashion, Michigan increased its lead to 4-2.
Slater led the team in hits on the day with four, as the Wolverines tacked on five more runs and forfeited just two to clinch the series with a 9-4 win.
Solidifying the trend on the weekend, Michigan started the final game of the series Sunday with two runs in the bottom of the second inning, and would go on to take home a 5-1 victory.
Junior third baseman Drew Lugbauer reached third base on an overthrow from second and a dropped ball from the catcher. Lewis followed with a walk to put men on first and third. Sophomore designated hitter Nick Poirier then slapped an RBI single to centerfield to send Lugbauer home.
“That’s what we want to do with every opponent we play,” Lugbauer said. “Put pressure on them and do things on the bases and hit the ball hard at people.”
Lewis picked up the second run on the inning with a perfectly timed double steal that ended with an overthrow at home.
After Michigan tacked on two more runs in the seventh inning due to three walks, increasing the lead to four, the Wolverines did not take their foot off the throttle, as Lewis picked up an RBI single to centerfield to send Brdar home for their fifth run.
Purdue mounted a late-game run, though, as a double and then a grounder to third drove a Boilermaker home. But senior closer Jackson Lamb retired the last two Boilermakers to cap off a 5-1 victory for Michigan.
The Wolverines swept the weekend, rallying behind 21 hits and 16 runs. The Boilermakers, on the other hand, produced 26 hits, but could not seem to convert their offensive against a stubborn Michigan defense, amassing only five runs.
Having seemingly broken out of its offensive slump where it scored just 20 runs in its last seven games, Michigan rallied for 14 runs combined Saturday and Sunday, and will now look to keep that momentum going with one week left of the regular season.