Baseball bats way to fourth straight win

Allison Farrand/Daily
Buy this photo

By Zach Shaw, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 7, 2014

After 50 games, the Michigan baseball team is finally on a roll.

Though months of inconsistent play have prevented the Wolverines from stringing wins together, the Wolverines (11-10 Big Ten, 24-25-1 overall) have won four straight and five of six. In a midseason addition to the schedule, Michigan was able to continue that positive momentum against a familiar foe.

On Wednesday night, the Wolverines were able to overcome an early deficit to beat Oakland for the second time in nine days, this time by a score of 7-4.

“It was a good all-around team win,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “I’m proud of the way our relief guys came in and pounded the strike zone and gave our offense a chance to get back in the game, and our hitters were able to string quality at-bats together, put the ball in play and keep the pressure on their defense.”

Michigan came away with another win, but not before a disastrous first inning shocked the team. Normally the Sunday starter, senior left-hander Logan McAnallen got the start on the mound to fine-tune things before facing Ohio State this weekend. Instead, he surrendered four hits and three runs in the first frame to the Grizzlies (8-29) to put the Wolverines in an early hole.

“(McAnallen) was making some mistakes with his fastball and leaving too much over the plate,” Bakich said. “Whether he was trying to throw away or go in, he was catching too much of the plate, and they were able to put the barrel on it pretty consistently.”

Following the offensive spurt by the Grizzlies, Michigan battled back with its own bats, using three extra-base hits and a number of errant pitches by Oakland pitchers to take a 4-3 lead in the second inning.

On the defensive side, the Wolverines were able to limit the Oakland offense to just three hits and one ninth-inning run the remainder of the game, allowing what looked like an upset in the making to become an easy win.

“(Freshman right-hander) Cam Wysocki was critical to that,” Bakich said. “He was able to pitch five shutout innings on 48 pitches, which means he was able to work very fast. He was pounding the strike zone and giving us a chance to get back in the game.”

After several quiet innings from both sides, Michigan was in the midst of another rally in the sixth inning — having already scored one run with a runner on second with no one out — when an incoming thunderstorm delayed the game for 68 minutes.

“We just talked to the team,” Bakich said, “and told them to make sure they go back out there and compete with the same intent and sense of urgency they had at the beginning of the game, and not let a rain delay lull you to sleep.

“I thought our guys did a nice job tacking on runs right after the delay and staying aggressive. That was a big part of the game to come out strong and not ease back into it.”

Following the storm, the Wolverines picked up right where they left off. Entering the delay in a 1-0 count, freshman outfielder Carmen Benedetti drove a two-run homer to right, extending Michigan’s lead to four.

The bomb was Benedetti’s first career home run, but the freshman — who went 2-for-3 with four RBI in the game — is hitting .359 with 20 RBI since April 1, numbers that have not only moved him up in the depth chart and lineup, but asserted Bendetti as one of the team leaders.

“(Benedetti) didn’t get a lot of opportunities and wasn’t a go-to guy at the beginning of the year,” Bakich said. “But he’s become one our mainstays in the middle of the order and has been very consistent. His development is just his maturation as a collegiate hitter and getting comfortable at this level. The more he sees, the better he’s getting, and now you’re starting to see some power come with that.”

As a team, the Wolverines’ team average has risen to a season-best .258. With a critical series against Ohio State and the Big Ten Tournament looming in the near future, Bakich feels good about his suddenly successful team.

“We just have to keep that competitive mentality,” Bakich said. “That’s where I’ve seen an adjustment in the way these guys approach the game, we’re doing a much better job of competing every time we step into the box and step on the mound. We just want to keep that going as long as we possibly can.”