After four hours of action, the No. 16 Michigan baseball team (9-4) was looking to stay alive in the bottom of the tenth inning on Sunday at Dodger Stadium. Freshman right-hander Willie Weiss had given up a bases-loaded walk to put Oklahoma State up, 3-2, in the top of the inning, and it was now up to the bottom of the Wolverines’ order to keep the game alive.
All three batters struck out swinging.
“(Weiss) had the one tough inning, a couple of hits fall, you don’t get a couple of calls and end up with some walks, that happens,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “It was just magnified because it was the tenth inning, but I thought the numbers didn’t tell the whole story because he made some gutsy pitches in some huge spots.”
The extra-inning loss proved to exemplify Michigan’s performance over the weekend. An impressive outing by the starting pitchers — all three gave up just two earned runs — and error-free defense kept the Wolverines in the games despite a struggling offense scoring two runs on Saturday and one run on Sunday, dropping two of three games to USC and Oklahoma State while beating No. 2 UCLA.
“We certainly had opportunities to execute on this trip that we didn’t get done,” Bakich said. “Whether it was getting bunts down or moving runners over, and those are the things that need repetition. Those are the things that we haven’t been able to do in training. We need to work on those areas, we had a lot of outs on the bases from this trip, whether it be caught stealing or pick-offs. Those are very costly mistakes against really good teams.”
This past weekend’s competition was against some of their toughest competition this year and proved to be a big test for Michigan early in the season. With four runs in the first inning, the Wolverines got off to a quick start on Friday against the Bruins and never looked back on their way to a 7-5 upset victory.
Saturday, though, Michigan’s offense stagnated. Scoring one unearned run in the sixth inning, the Wolverines fell to USC, 4-1. Sunday, the offense scored just two runs against the Cowboys, both batted in by sophomore outfielder Jordan Nwogu, who had a great individual performance with an RBI single and a solo home run in the 10-inning loss.
“Players are just out of their routine,” Bakich said. “They just aren’t getting the drill work in they normally get. The hitters aren’t hitting off the tee and getting their cage routine in. It’s just you show up to the games, you do batting practice and you get as much as you can in those opportunities.”
After the weekend series, just two players have a batting average over .300, and the team went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position in the two losses this weekend.
Junior left-hander Tommy Henry gained his fourth win of the season against the Bruins, even though he gave up his first runs of the year. The other weekend starters had similar performances, keeping the Wolverines in the game. Junior right-hander Karl Kauffmann allowed just two runs against USC on Saturday and sophomore right-hander Jeff Criswell also gave up two runs to the Cowboys, striking out 12.
“We’ve been very fortunate to get the starting pitching we’ve gotten from Tommy Henry, Karl Kauffmann and Jeff Criswell,” Bakich said. “They’ve been workhorses thus far, especially Tommy and Karl.”
Having won one of their last five, Michigan has work to do.
“It was a let down against USC and it was a let down (Sunday),” Bakich said. “The only thing you can do when it feels like there’s a let down is learn from it, grow from it, get better from it. So that’s what we want to do. We want to find ways to keep improving as the season keeps going.”