After starting the Big Ten Tournament with two big wins, the Michigan baseball team finally lost some steam.
As the tournament has reached its deeper stages, the Wolverines have struggled to find success from their pitchers. So when the bats also began to sputter out for the first time, a win proved out of reach.
Michigan (30-26 overall, 12-13 Big Ten) was defeated, 7-3, by Iowa (36-18, 18-7) on Saturday, giving it its first loss of the tournament. The Wolverines’ pitching fizzled out late and the offense couldn’t make up the difference.
That end wasn’t always so certain. Both offenses seemed to be trudging through mud for the first five innings, and despite being gifted early baserunners, they both failed to convert.
“This wasn’t our night offensively,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “We got the lead off hitter on six out of nine times, but we weren’t able to cash in.”
Struggles with cashing in showed up from the start of the game. In the first inning, the Wolverines loaded the bases with three hit-by-pitches, but they were put away with no damage dealt. Both starting pitchers dialed in, and the innings flew by with a speed unknown to Michigan’s high-powered offensive performances thus far in Omaha.
The stalemate finally broke in the fifth inning, when the Hawkeyes managed to sneak a run across. However, the very next batter that right-hander Chase Allen managed to put away ended the inning — leaving three base runners stranded in his wake.
But after that breakthrough, Iowa finally found a rhythm. When Allen got taken out of the game for the sixth inning, the Hawkeyes got men on and also got them across home plate. They scored another two runs and almost a third when junior catcher Jimmy Obertop made a close play at the plate.
Michigan, too, started to find life, plating two runs of their own off a pinch-hit single from redshirt junior Jordan Rogers. But junior second baseman Ted Burton was caught trying to stretch for a third run, ending the inning short of tying it up.
However the Wolverines’ pitching began to stagnate, and in the seventh inning Iowa busted the game open. Another four runs made it home, putting Michigan in a sizable five-run hole.
And for once. The Wolverine hitters couldn’t keep up with the opponent. Despite a lead-off home run and a couple of baserunners in the eighth inning, Iowa managed to pitch its way out with a lead.
“We had runners in scoring position,” Bakich said. “We just didn’t get the hits.”
Though freshman right-hander Avery Goldensoph calmed down the Hawkeye bats through the eighth and ninth innings, it was already too late. The four-run Iowa lead proved to be more than the Wolverine bats could overcome, even after the impressive performances they had displayed in the first two days.
Michigan left the game clutching its first loss of the tournament, and now it looks for Sunday redemption in a rematch against Iowa.