The seventh inning turned the tide for Michigan.
After barely surviving the top of the inning with the bases loaded and only one out, the Wolverines’ offense came to life — capitalizing on a throwing error, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch. The game was put out of reach for in-state rival Michigan State (16-30 overall, 5-12 Big Ten) as it went down 5-0 to the hosts at Ray Fisher Stadium.
In their third meeting on the season, the Michigan baseball team (35-11, 14-3) bested the Spartans 7-0 after pulling away late.
For the Wolverines, every hit mattered. A leadoff fly ball from sophomore designated hitter Jordan Nwogu bounced off the top of the wall in right field, forcing the right fielder to scramble after the ball to limit Nwogu to a triple. Sophomore center fielder Jesse Franklin then hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Nwogu for an early 1-0 lead.
Two innings later, Franklin would strike again. This time with a 105-mile-per-hour bullet over the scoreboard in right field for a solo home run and a 2-0 lead for Michigan.
“Guys getting on base,” said Franklin. “Those sac-flies, I wasn’t really trying to hit pop ups like that because if nobody’s on base those are just big old pop flies. So just guys getting on base.”
Added Michigan coach Erik Bakich: “We took advantage of some opportunistic offense. We did a good job when we got runners to third base to get them in somehow, even if it wasn’t via a Franklin home run or sac fly, but just to find a way to knock those guys in.”
All told, the Wolverines scored seven runs on eight hits, balancing powerful batting with capitalizing on Michigan State’s mistakes.
Both teams had managed to find a way to shut down the opposing team’s offense until the seventh inning, when senior left-hander Ben Keizer was in his third inning of relief. Zaid Walker managed a single, and pinch hitter Bailey Peterson reached base after a backhanded toss from sophomore shortstop Jack Blomgren drew senior second baseman Ako Thomas off the base.
Keizer was pulled before the inning ended and sophomore left-hander Angelo Smith came in to get out of the jam. After giving up a four pitch walk to load the bases, Smith struck out the Spartan’s leadoff hitter. But the inning ended when a hard hit ball to right field forced a diving catch from junior right fielder Jordan Brewer.
Michigan went on to score three runs in the bottom of the seventh and two runs in the bottom of the eighth to win the game 7-0.
“I walked the first guy,” Smith said. “From there I had to find it quick because the game’s getting close and if they score they’d only be down one so the next batter I threw three sliders and got him out in three pitches.”
Added Bakich: “All the momentum from then was on our side, we scored five runs in the next two innings after that. That was a huge moment in the game, if he dives and misses it, all three runs score. So he took a chance and nailed it and got it. From that moment on you could just feel it was different.”