Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich often speaks about the importance of winning innings in order to win games.
The No. 22 Wolverines (3-2 Big Ten, 22-9 overall) discovered exactly what Bakich was talking about in both Michigan’s 19-3 victory over Eastern Michigan on Wednesday and its 11-5 loss to Michigan State on Tuesday. Two innings practically sealed the game against the Eagles, while only one frame put away the contest against the Spartans.
“We want to win frames,” Bakich said. “When you can score in multiple frames and keep the pressure on, that’s certainly a positive and certainly what we want to do.”
The Wolverines delivered the decisive blow early against Eastern Michigan (5-1 Mid-American Conference, 13-17 overall), scoring four runs each in both the first and third innings.
Senior catcher Harrison Wenson began the onslaught in the first when, with runners on first and third with one out, he singled to left field to drive in a run. Fellow senior centerfielder Cody Bruder immediately followed Wenson up with an RBI double to right field.
Both Wenson and Bruder crossed home plate two batters later when freshman shortstop Michael Brdar hit a two-RBI single to extend the Wolverines’ lead to four.
“It’s always good to throw the first punch,” said senior left fielder Matt Ramsay. “It’s good to score in the first. That takes pressure off the defense and it definitely takes pressure off the pitcher.”
Michigan laid siege to the Eagles again when it loaded the bases with one out in the third. Brdar then hit an RBI single to make the score 5-0, and senior designated hitter Domenic Jamett put the game away with a three-RBI double down the right-field line. The Wolverines only pulled further away after that.
“He’s a senior, he’s a captain and he stands for all of the right things,” Bakich said of Jamett. “His represents everything that is great about Michigan.”
In contrast to Wednesday’s contest, Michigan State (5-1 Big Ten, 22-6 overall) didn’t mortally wound Michigan until the sixth inning. The Spartans scored eight times in that frame, turning what was a 2-2 nail-biter into a blowout.
Michigan State right fielder Kris Simonton started the scoring blitz with a bases-loaded, no-out single that drove in two runs. Third baseman Justin Hovis nabbed an RBI of his own on the next at-bat with a sacrifice fly and catcher Matt Byars immediately followed up with an RBI double to leave the Wolverines down four.
The Spartans hit a pair of RBI singles later in the inning to further sink Michigan into a hole.
If all of that didn’t cause enough pain for the Wolverines, they committed two errors in the sixth inning, with each one allowing Michigan State to score a run.
“It all comes back to getting ahead of the count with pitchers,” Bruder said. “We struggled with that (Tuesday).”
For the Wolverines to achieve their season goals of winning the Big Ten and advancing to the NCAA Tournament, the big innings will need to resemble those seen against the Eagles more than the ones against against the Spartans.