Jonathan Engelmann crossed home plate in the eighth inning, joined by a jubilant mob of teammates before he could even make it back to his dugout. The scene was the fourth of the day for the junior center fielder, who slammed two home runs, a double and a triple for five runs batted-in.
This time, it came after he launched a pitch over the padded wall in left-center field at Ray Fischer Stadium to put the final nail in Michigan State’s coffin, as Michigan won its sixth in a row Friday night, 12-3.
“I like the effort and the enthusiasm that we’re playing with, the way we’re encouraging each other,” said Wolverines coach Erik Bakich. “It’s a fun group to watch right now. Pitching and defense was good, the hitting was very consistent today. I thought we kept the pedal down.”
The homer drove in three runs and completed a six-run eighth after the Spartans opened the inning with three runs of their own.
“When you get your pitch and you see it, you want to do damage,” Engelmann said. “Every time today before I came up to the plate, coach Bakich said, ‘Do damage.’ … When you have that mindset and you get your pitch, you will do damage.”
“Going up there in his last at-bat, we were all like, ‘Come on, get the cycle,’ ” sophomore left-hander Tommy Henry added. “And he goes up there and decides to hit a home run.”
Scoring five runs off the long ball, though, is not typical for Michigan, whose offense is built on getting on base and doing damage on the base-paths.
“We’re not a home run-hitting team,” Bakich said. “We’re more of a pressure type of offense where we play the game and get guys in motion and make things happen and knock them in. But when we can get some big hits like that, we’ll take every one of them.”
Added Engelmann: “We’ll single guys to death. We’ve got a lot of guys with great barrel-to-bat skills. But as we go on, we’re seeing guys open up for some juice, starting to believe in their ability and drive balls to the gap, and we saw that a lot today out of a few guys.”
Sandwiched between Engelmann’s two long balls, that approach remained evident on Friday night. Other than those two homers, the Wolverines scored their seven runs via a double, two fielder’s choices, a sacrifice fly, a passed ball, a walk and a single.
Things were equally positive for Michigan on the mound. Sophomore left-hander Tommy Henry went six innings, striking out six with two hits and three walks, while freshman righty Jeff Criswell closed the door with one and a third scoreless.
“(Henry) was very consistent and very aggressive with his attack on the strike zone,” Bakich said, “executing all pitches well. … Even when there were six runs put up on him against Bowling Green last week in the second inning, he wasn’t rattled, stayed poised and put more zeroes up. You saw it today, he walked the leadoff hitter of the game and looked like he was a little bit too fired up or just lacking command there for a hitter and a half and just found it. He’s a tremendous competitor.”
The win was yet another in a progression of encouraging performances from the Wolverines who have now won six straight after opening the season 4-11.
“As tough and as miserable as it was (early on), not being confident, not playing well, not being positive,” Bakich said, “Experiencing that has made us tougher, has made us more resilient, has really strengthened our team in all facets. Not just the pitching and defense and offense but the camaraderie, the chemistry, and the relationships.”
“We got back to our roots,” Henry said. “The (dugout) has been incredibly active, providing so much energy to the guys on the field. … It’s created all the momentum that we’ve felt over the six game stretch.”
For Michigan, the job is to keep that momentum rolling as it heads into Big Ten play.