Erik Bakich has often made it a point to measure a team by how well it rebounds from adversity.
And just like the Michigan baseball coach ordered, the Wolverines faced plenty of adversity against Oklahoma State. After Michigan dropped its first two contests to Oklahoma State, 6-3 and 5-4, respectively, the Wolverines recovered Sunday to defeat the Cowboys, 4-2.
“(Today) was a clean game from a pitching standpoint,” Bakich said Sunday. “It was the complete opposite of yesterday. Yesterday, we struggled from a pitching, an offensive and a defensive standpoint. Today, we pitched very well, played very good defense and had timely hits.”
Michigan wasted no time getting on the board Sunday with sophomore shortstop Jake Bivens leading off the first inning with a single. Bivens advanced to third when senior outfielder Matt Ramsay walked, followed by junior first baseman Carmen Benedetti hitting a popup to right field. A sacrifice fly by junior catcher Harrison Wenson allowed Bivens to score and give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.
Michigan scored again in the fifth on a two-out single by Benedetti that drove in a run. Senior outfielder Cody Bruder followed up with another RBI single to score Benedetti. The Wolverines put up another run in the sixth frame on an outfield single by freshman second baseman Ako Thomas to make the score 4-0.
Things got somewhat dicey for the Wolverines in the bottom of the eighth when the Cowboys’ Garrett Benge hit a two-out RBI double to cut Michigan’s lead to two and bring the tying run to the plate. But sophomore right-hander Bryan Pall got Oklahoma State’s Jon Littell to ground out to end the inning.
Senior left-hander Evan Hill earned the victory Sunday, pitching five innings. He gave up one run on three hits, walked four and struck out six. Pall earned his second save of the season as he pitched the last 1.2 frames.
“(Sunday’s game) was a very well played game,” Bakich said. “As disappointing as it was not to have a positive weekend, there were positives (Sunday). We made corrections from (Saturday).”
The Wolverines needed to improve during Saturday’s game, as they found themselves trailing 5-2 after seven innings.
Then, in the bottom of the eighth, junior Hector Gutierrez came in to pinch hit for fellow junior shortstop Michael Brdar with the bases loaded and one out. Gutierrez hit a two-RBI single up the middle to trim the deficit to one.
But the Wolverines were unable to capitalize further as freshman outfielder Jonathan Engleman was thrown out trying to steal third base before Thomas grounded out to end the inning.
One day earlier, Michigan took a 3-1 edge in the top of the fourth thanks to a two-RBI single to left-center by Bivens and an RBI single by Ramsay.
But the Wolverines’ advantage was wiped out in the bottom of the fourth as Oklahoma State’s Collin Theroux blasted a three-run home run. The Cowboys scored two more times in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach.
“A lot of times when you play good teams, what’s going to separate the game is usually going to be a swing, a pitch or a play,” Bakich said. “(Theroux) got a good swing on a good pitch.”
Despite the disappointing start, Michigan still finished the weekend strong.
The Wolverines have traveled 18,454 miles in their 19-game road swing since their opening series against Canisius in Port. St. Lucie, Fla., on Feb. 19-21. Michigan will finally play at Ray Fisher Stadium when it hosts a four-game series against Illinois-Chicago beginning March 25, to the relief of Bakich.
“(Playing at home) is twofold,” Bakich said. “Number one, it’ll be nice to get an extra day of training on Thursday instead of having to pack up and go somewhere. It’ll be another day to get better. And then number two, just the routine of playing at home, sleeping in our own beds, eating the food we want to eat when we want to eat it. All of that stuff has an impact.”