Going into the eighth inning on Saturday, the No. 17 Michigan baseball team (3-0 overall) was tied 4-4 with Binghamton (0-3). It was the second game in a three-game series, with the Wolverines notching a 10-0 victory in the first game of the series.
Saturday, though, was a different story. Michigan went down 4-2 in the third inning after senior third baseman Blake Nelson’s three errors propelled Binghamton to score three runs.
“We had a tough defensive day on Saturday, but that’s a fluke,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “It’s just a hiccup. I don’t anticipate very many games like that, but those days happen and we just have to move on.”
Clawing its way back to even the score against the Bearcats with a run in both the fourth and fifth innings, Michigan was looking to find momentum. Finding it in the bottom of the eighth, Nelson singled to left field and advanced to third on two wild pitches, allowing sophomore shortstop Jack Blomgren’s single to knock him in for the go-ahead run.
With the nail-biter on Saturday done, the Wolverines came to play on Sunday. Holding the Bearcats to two runs, they broke out with a six-run eighth inning to win the game 12-2.
“I and my coaching staff like the way we put the exclamation mark on the weekend with the six-run eighth inning to really extend the lead,” Bakich said. “The game was much more in question than 12-2, but it took a six-run burst there in the eighth to really separate.”
All three of the weekend games were won on the back of the pitching, with junior right-hander Tommy Henry throwing seven shutout innings and redshirt right-hander freshman Isaiah Paige notching two of his own.
Saturday saw junior right-hander Karl Kauffmann pitch 10 strikeouts, only allowing one earned run. Freshman Willy Weiss finished the game with a clutch save, striking out the side after allowing a leadoff single.
Sunday was more of the same, as sophomore right-hander Jeff Criswell got the start, allowing only one run in five innings. A team of relievers showed the game out, headlined by sophomore left-hander Angelo Smith — who threw two innings with four strikeouts and one earned run, striking out two and getting a groundout after coming on with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.
Pitching, though, wasn’t the only thing going for Michigan. Holding a batting average of .315, the offense held its own. Sunday brought two triples, by Blomgren and redshirt senior Miles Lewis, and a homerun from sophomore catcher Joe Donovan.
“As a coaching staff we were really impressed with the balance of our offense with multiple threats throughout our lineup, one through nine,” Bakich said. “A combination of both speed and power. It’s just a tough lineup to get through.”
One offensive star of the weekend has to be Blomgren, who had five runs batted in — including the winning one on Saturday.
“He hit a huge triple today that really separated the game and what it means is that we’re really deep,” Bakich said. “He may be in the nine-hole in our team, but he might be in the two-hole or leadoff spot on another team.”
All of the Wolverines’ offensive production came without junior outfielder Dominic Clementi, who had a team high .368 batting average last year and was out with an abdominal sprain. Clementi is questionable for next weekend’s series against The Citadel.
Even so, this opening series could not have gone much better for Michigan, who has come out of the gates as fast as it could have hoped.