The Michigan baseball team needed to find a win against a difficult opponent in a high-powered Rutgers team.
They found it, leaving everything out on the field to do it.
“We were saying that we are going to treat every week from here on out like it’s tournament baseball,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “Treat every individual game like it’s the only game of the week.”
That mindset showed — and it got results in the form of a desperately-needed win.
The Wolverines have been having a down year. Coming into this series — the season’s last — they were right on the bubble of the Big Ten Tournament. By coming out and winning game one, they officially punched their ticket to Omaha.
The Scarlet Knights are not an ideal team to face in such a high stakes situation. They are battling it out for the Big Ten regular season title with Maryland and have been the conference leader for most of the season.
To grab a win from a team like that, Michigan went all out with five home runs and eight extra-base hits.
But the cream of Michigan’s pitching staff also found itself thrown at Rutgers in a successful attempt to limit its offense — its six runs were the lowest amount the Scarlet Knights have scored all month.
That effort came largely by committee. Sophomore left-hander Connor O’Halloran got the start, but Rutgers was able to hang with the determined Wolverine offense when he was on the mound. But after the fifth inning, the bullpen was called in — but not a typical bullpen.
Junior right-hander Noah Rennard, usually a bullpen staple, tossed a scoreless sixth. After him, Bakich started calling in his other starters. Sophomore right-hander Chase Allen took the mound to toss two innings of his own — allowing only one final run to the Scarlet Knights.
In the ninth inning, Bakich showed he was truly using every asset at his disposal by putting junior right-hander Cameron Weston, a cemented starter, on the mound to close the game.
“That was the game plan going in, once we get a lead in the middle innings,” Bakich said. “We’re going to have Allen and Weston ready.”
They were ready and they had a plan to win.
“We knew coming in it was all hands on deck,” Allen said. “Attacking them, filling up the zone, making our best pitches … I don’t think anyone can beat us like that.”
The whole Wolverines team was dialed in and did what was necessary to win — and to continue their season.
“This is the time of year where it doesn’t matter what you’ve done up to this point,” Bakich said. “It just matters who plays the best … we want that to be us.”
Michigan started that mission strong on Thursday.