A disconcerting performance by the Michigan baseball team (13-11 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) led to a 14-7 thrashing at the hands of Oakland (11-12, 4-2 Horizon League) on Wednesday afternoon to start its nine-game homestand with more questions than answers.
“They outplayed us clearly,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “They scored all 14 of their runs in the first six innings. We just couldn’t combat what they were doing offensively.”
The Golden Grizzlies struck fast, knocking in five runs off six base hits before most of the Ray Fisher Stadium crowd even settled into their seats. Michigan’s starter — sophomore left-hander Logan Wood — pitched just two-thirds of the first inning before being pulled in favor of sophomore right-hander Avery Goldensoph. However, a throwing error on a pickoff attempt by senior catcher Casey Buckley added a sixth run to Oakland’s dominant first inning.
Despite a better start to the second inning, Goldensoph was unable to get out unscathed, as Golden Grizzlies’ third baseman Brandon Nigh belted a line drive just past the right foul pole for a home run.
Junior designated hitter Jimmy Obertop got the Wolverines on the board with a 335-foot home run of his own in the bottom of the second. But any hopes of a rally were squashed with an inning-ending double play off the bat of senior shortstop Riley Bertram.
Too often, that was the tale of the day for the Wolverines.
“We got seven runs on the board, but we didn’t really follow through with our gameplan,” junior right fielder Clark Elliott said. “We were making the same mistakes over and over again even after we got a feeling for the zone.”
Goldensoph ultimately was pulled in the third inning in favor of right-handed freshman Jake Keaser after giving up back-to-back RBI triples to put the score at 9-1. Keaser immediately proved effective, as the Wolverines recorded the final two outs of the inning in a single at-bat — the first via a pickoff at third base, followed by a strikeout of center fielder Seth Tucker.
Michigan finally found some offensive consistency in the bottom of the third with an RBI single and a two-run homer off the bat of junior second baseman Ted Burton. The offensive onslaught ended Oakland starter Travis Densmore’s day, but the rally was cut short at the hands of their reliever Brandon Decker, who struck out graduate center fielder Joe Stewart to end the inning.
The Grizzlies added insurance in the top of the fifth, forcing the Wolverines to use three pitchers in a three-run inning. Senior right-hander Willie Weiss gave up two more runs to Oakland in the sixth inning, pushing the Golden Grizzlies’ totals to 14 runs and 17 hits — the most allowed of either category for any game this season — in just six innings of work.
“(Weiss) had a cross up there in the sixth inning, and that hurt us,” Bakich said. “It turned an inning-ending double play into an RBI single. It’s an unfortunate play.”
Michigan, in contrast, struggled to get on base until the sixth inning, as Oakland retired nine consecutive batters. Michigan let out one last gasp with a three-run drive hit by Clark Elliott but it would be short-lived as the Wolverines didn’t score the rest of the game.
All told, Michigan finished the outing with seven of its 16 available relief pitchers having made an appearance — by far the most bullpen usage in any game this season. It was a stark performance for all the wrong reasons.
“We couldn’t stop them.” Bakich said. “We threw a lot of guys out there trying to find someone who could put zeros up early, and we couldn’t do that.”
The Wolverines now face the rest of their homestand looking to compile momentum.