Less than 19 hours before the start of Wednesday’s game, the No. 17 Michigan baseball team suffered its largest defeat of 2016, a 9-5 loss to Notre Dame.
Yet on Wednesday, the Wolverines (3-0 Big Ten, 21-6 overall) made Tuesday’s shortfall seem like ancient history as it topped Bowling Green, 5-0. Wednesday was the sixth time this season they shut out an opponent.
“The beautiful thing about baseball is that each day is a new opportunity,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “If we were to dwell on anything that happened yesterday, it would just set us up negatively for today. Yesterday had nothing to do with today.”
Sophomore right-hander Ryan Nutof got the start for Michigan and pitched a gem, throwing five scoreless innings, giving up four hits, walking two batters and striking out four. Nutof’s record improved to 4-1 with the win.
“(Nutof) was in attack mode,” Bakich said. “He was getting strike one and strike two and was very efficient with his pitch count. To be able to put up five zeros on the board was exactly what we needed because the game was very much in question.”
The hero of Michigan’s offense Wednesday was sophomore first baseman Drew Lugbauer, who launched a solo home run over the right-field wall in the bottom of the second inning to put the Wolverines on the board.
He later blasted a two-run homer to right in the seventh to put Michigan ahead, 5-0, and fell just short of knocking another one out of the park in the third when he hit a fly ball to the center field warning track.
“I’m just trying to do as much as I can do to help (the team), whatever I need to do,” Lugbauer said.
Bowling Green (2-4 Mid-American, 11-17 overall) threatened to score in the top of the fifth when it put runners on first and second with one out. After getting the next batter out, Nutof walked Falcons’ right fielder R.J. Williams to load the bases.
But Nutof got out of the jam when he got Bowling Green left fielder Matt Smith to fly out to Wolverines’ senior center fielder Cody Bruder.
“Having a team like ours behind me actually helps with my confidence,” Nutof said.
The score remained 1-0 until the bottom of the sixth, when sophomore third baseman Jake Bivens came to bat with a runner on third and two outs. Bivens proceeded to single to third base to drive in a run.
On the next at-bat, senior left fielder Matt Ramsay smacked a double to left field to score Bivens and extend Michigan’s lead to three. Ramsay then stole third base with junior designated hitter Carmen Benedetti up to bat to move within 90 feet of home plate.
But Benedetti couldn’t bring Ramsay home as he popped out to left field to end the inning.
Benedetti did, however, pitch 1.2 innings of shutout relief, giving up one hit and two walks while striking out one in the process. He followed junior right-hander Keith Lehmann who pitched a scoreless sixth frame.
“It’s always nice to see (the bullpen) come in and stay connected as a team and as a staff,” Nutof said. “It creates momentum for us into our next games.”
The Falcons put up one more comeback effort in the top of the eighth when they put runners on first and second with two outs, which prompted Bakich to pull Benedetti in favor of sophomore right-hander Bryan Pall.
Pall got Bowling Green catcher Tyler Greiner to ground out to third to nip the Falcons’ rally in the bud.
Junior right-hander Jackson Lamb came on to pitch a one-two-three ninth inning to earn his second save of the year.
“Lamb is throwing downhill with his fastball,” Bakich said. “He looks really good. He looks confident, he looks composed. He’s attacking the zone.”
Wednesday’s victory improved the Wolverines’ 2016 record at Ray Fisher Stadium to 6-0. They will have more opportunities to add to their home win total when they begin a three-game set against Minnesota on Friday.