The Michigan baseball team suffered both its first home losses and its first Big Ten losses of the season Friday afternoon against Minnesota.
After shutting out Bowling Green on Wednesday, the 17th-ranked Wolverines (3-2 Big Ten, 21-8 overall) struggled to get going on offense and keep the Golden Gophers off the base paths, losing both games, 8-1 and 5-3, respectively.
“We’ve definitely got some things we’ve got to work on,” said senior left-handed pitcher Evan Hill. “You’ve got to put these losses behind you as fast as possible. After the first game, we didn’t do a good job of forgetting. We have to be able to erase that from our memory as fast as possible.”
Game one of Friday’s doubleheader started as a pitchers’ duel through six innings, until Minnesota’s offense heated up in the seventh to run away with the victory. Though the margin of victory was sizable for the Golden Gophers (4-1, 18-10), they tied the Wolverines with 11 hits.
Michigan sophomore left-hander Oliver Jaskie, who entered the game with a 2.60 earned-run average, continued to pitch well despite picking up the loss. He tossed 4.1 innings, allowing two runs off of five hits.
The Golden Gophers’ only offense off of Jaskie came in the second inning. Left fielder Jordan Smith cracked a single to right field to score a run, and first baseman Toby Hanson followed suit in the next at-bat to put Minnesota up, 2-0.
Freshman southpaw William Tribucher relieved Jaskie in the fifth inning to pitch two innings and shake off his forgettable start on Tuesday against Notre Dame. The only run Tribucher gave up was from a base runner that junior righty Mac Lozer inherited in the seventh inning.
Lozer couldn’t escape the inning without additional damage though. With the bases loaded, a sacrifice fly and a single extended the Golden Gophers’ lead to 5-1.
With the help of two errors, Minnesota scored three insurance runs in the ninth inning to add to its cushion.
“We had a very disappointing day,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “Minnesota is a good team, but there were a lot of breakdowns fundamentally. We had some uncompetitive at-bats and issued too many free passes.”
The Wolverines’ batting order struggled to find a rhythm throughout game one. Their lone run came in the third inning. With junior designated hitter Carmen Benedetti and senior centerfielder Cody Bruder at the corners, Bruder got caught in a pickle trying to steal second, and Benedetti took advantage of the back-and-forth to run home.
Freshman second basemen Ako Thomas was a bright spot in the lineup that game, collecting a career-high three hits in four at-bats.
Game two of the doubleheader started just like the first, except it was junior left-hander Brett Adcock and Minnesota’s Dalton Sawyer who were tossing scoreless innings back and forth.
Adcock pitched five scoreless innings, getting out of bases-loaded jams in the second, third and fifth. Adcock walked eight batters but allowed just three hits.
But Adcock was not pleased with how he pitched.
“I didn’t have the best day,” he said. “I didn’t trust the defense as much I needed to. I needed to attack the zone more, and I’ve got to focus on throwing more strikes.”
On the other side, Sawyer stymied the Michigan offense. He continued pitching into the sixth inning without giving up a run, fanning 10 batters along the way.
The Wolverines encountered trouble in the sixth inning. Junior lefty Carmen Benedetti gave up the game’s first run in relief for Adcock, and gave way to sophomore right-hander Bryan Pall with a runner on second and one out. Pall loaded the bases, but managed to come out of the inning unscathed.
As in game one, the Golden Gophers’ offense opened the floodgates in the seventh inning. After scoring a run on a wild pitch, Minnesota strung together back-to-back-to-back RBI hits to increase their lead to 5-0.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Golden Gophers put Brian Glowicki on the mound, and Michigan attacked immediately. After a walk and a single, junior right fielder Johnny Slater singled to right field to score a run and avoid the Wolverines first scoreless game of the season. Glowicki was removed without recording an out in favor of Lucas Gilbreath. With loaded bases, a hit batter and fielder’s choice scored two more runs to ease the deficit, 5-3.
“They had a sense of urgency,” Bakich said. “Minnesota had put up the four spot in the seventh. I think the guys had had enough and saved some of their most competitive at-bats in the seventh and eighth innings. Unfortunately it was just too little, too late.”
Hill, who was slated to start Sunday’s game, came out of the bullpen for the final two innings, in which he struck out six batters. His performance sparked the Wolverines’ offense in the eighth inning, but not enough to take the come-from-behind win.
Michigan had two runners in scoring position in the eighth to potentially tie the game, but an attempted suicide squeeze by Slater turned into a double play. Slater’s bunt was a short pop-up out to the catcher, and first baseman Drew Lugbauer was tagged up at third to end the inning.
“After a day like today, I got to look in the mirror and make sure I’m doing everything I can to make sure these guys are prepared and playing fundamentally sound so we don’t ever have another day where we have as many breakdowns,” Bakich said.
Though its record does not jump off the stat sheet, Minnesota proved to be the toughest competitor that the Wolverines have faced thus far. Michigan will have to improve in Big Ten play if it hopes to go for another conference tournament title.