On Saturday, Michigan’s offense put a dent in the Ray Fisher Stadium fence’s self-esteem.
The Wolverines (19-7 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) hit four home runs in their 16-2 victory over in-state rival Michigan State (4-20, 0-5).
The air-show started in the first inning, when junior outfielder Jordan Brewer walked up to the plate with two outs. On the second pitch, he launched a long, arcing home run over the left-center fence as two Spartans stood to watch it — arms helplessly grasping the padded wall. It was 1-0 after the first inning, and Michigan never looked back.
The next inning, the Wolverines continued to flex their muscles; senior first-baseman Jimmy Kerr launched a solo shot to right field that took three seconds to leave the field. In the bottom of the third Michigan’s offense put a team effort together to score four runs. Sophomore outfielder Jesse Franklin and junior designated hitter Dominic Clementi worked their way to second and third base.
Brewer came up to the plate, and in his second at-bat, he sent a long fly ball to right-center field for a sacrifice fly. Senior outfielder Miles Lewis followed up with a double down the right-field line to score the Wolverines’ second run of the inning. Waiting patiently, Lewis trotted into home base after Kerr launched his second home run of the game to dead center, easily clearing the barrier 395 feet away to put Michigan up, 6-0.
After their first scoreless inning of the night in the fourth, the Wolverines posted five runs to extend the lead to 11-2, headlined by sophomore catcher Joe Donovan’s high-hanging pop-up that somehow made it over the left-center field fence for a three-run home run.
The offensive explosion, though, didn’t hide Michigan’s pitching struggles.
Beginning in the first inning, junior right-hander Karl Kauffman flirted with danger, putting a base-runner on first and second in each of the first two innings only to have good defensive plays get him out of trouble.
In the second inning, for example, he walked Michigan State’s Reese Trahey, allowed a hard hit single against Casey Mayes and a long fly out from Adam Proctor that surely would have advanced Trahey to third if not for Brewer’s bullet of a throw from just in front of the right field warning track to third base for an impressive double play.
“What should be a normal play that would advance the runner from second to third and create a scoring opportunity for them,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “For him to show off a really tremendous and accurate arm, that was a huge, big time momentum play.”
The defense couldn’t save Kauffmann in the fourth inning, though. Walking two batters and throwing two wild pitches, he allowed two runs. The next inning, Kauffmann threw one more wild pitch and allowed one more walk — the rain affecting his accuracy.
Kauffmann wasn’t the only one thrown off by the moisture. Freshman left-hand reliever Walker Cleveland had three wild-pitches and two walks, managing to avoid letting a run in in the seventh inning despite loading the bases.
“We have never done that before,” Bakich said. “That many wild pitches, that many spiked fastballs and curveballs. If it becomes a problem, we’ll address it. Otherwise we’ll just leave it at that.”
Yet the offense still couldn’t be slowed down.
“Kerr, a senior captain to go 5-for-5, with two doubles, two home runs and really spark our offense,” Bakich said. “It was great to see our offense click up and down the lineup and on the bench.”
It seemed every bat swung made contact — demoralizing the Spartans. It wasn’t just the fence that felt worthless.