Baseball blows past Eastern, wins seventh game in eight tries

Paul Sherman/Daily
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By Ben Fidelman, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 7, 2015

Coming into Tuesday’s matchup at Ray Fisher Stadium, the Michigan baseball team had lost its last seven games against nearby foe Eastern Michigan. After slugging 13 extra-base hits and accumulating a season-high 42 total bases, the Wolverines broke that losing streak with an 18-4 victory.

“What stood out to me today was that we didn’t hit 20 singles,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “We had a lot of extra-base hits, and our guys were really making hard contact even on some of our outs. It was great to see us not settle and keep the score at 8-4, but be able to put 11 runs up in the last three innings.”

Though it was the end of the game that contained the biggest fireworks, the Wolverines (4-5 Big Ten, 19-13 overall) jumped out to a quick start in the bottom of the first inning when they muscled three runs across the plate.

The first two hitters in the lineup reached base and moved around on a run-scoring single from junior third baseman Travis Maezes. That left two men on base with two outs for junior left fielder Cody Bruder, who smacked his first of four extra-base hits on the evening.

“It was really important to get out to a good start tonight,” said Michigan first baseman Carmen Benedetti. “Eastern has kind of had their way with us, and it was good to start off hot against them, throw some punches and knock them down.”

The Eagles (4-5, 12-19) knocked in one run against junior left-handed pitcher Evan Hill, but Michigan responded in the bottom of the frame with three more scores. Seven Wolverines went to the plate, highlighted by back-to-back, line-drive hits by Benedetti and Bruder, falling for a double and triple, respectively, to put Michigan up 6-1 heading to the third.

Earlier in the week, Bakich said that Hill, who was making his first start of the season after rehabbing a knee injury sustained in the fall, was expected to throw just a few innings in order to rebuild his arm strength.

Hill gave two innings of work, allowing just two hits and one earned run while striking out a pair of hitters.

Freshman right-hander Jayce Vancena came in for the Wolverines after Hill had completed his scheduled two innings of work, putting together four solid innings on the mound. Vancena allowed three runs to score, but there was little doubt concerning the outcome of the game. After Vancena entered from the bullpen, the closest the game became was 8-4 after Eastern Michigan tacked on two runs in the top of the fourth inning.

From that point on, Michigan slugged three home runs, two triples and five doubles en route to its final tally of 18 runs.

Two Wolverines stood out in the run-producing department. Bruder and sophomore right fielder Johnny Slater combined for 11 RBI on the night and accounted for much of the high level of the game’s slugging statistics.

Two of Michigan's three home runs came from Slater, who launched balls over the right-field wall in both the sixth and seventh innings, and Bruder ended up being just a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. No Wolverine has hit for the cycle since 2007, and Slater was the first Michigan player to hit two home runs in a game since Jacob Cronenworth did so against Illinois on April 12, 2014.

“Something we’ve talked about has been that we can put up a crooked number and then maybe not score for a few innings or just hold the lead after a three- or five-run inning,” Bakich said. “So for us to have five different innings where we score multiple runs was good to see our team do. It was great to see some offensive explosion and fireworks out here.”

Michigan has won seven of its last eight games and is sailing toward easier parts of its conference schedule. If it hopes to get into the national rankings again, the team will have to keep dominating even the midweek games.