LANSING — In the first ‘Capital Clash’ game at Jackson Field since 2007, the Michigan baseball team (18-15 overall, 4-3 Big Ten) made a statement, throttling their rival Michigan State (13-17, 2-5) to the tune of 18-6.
The offensive explosion was powered by a season-high six home runs, including three individually from junior right fielder Clark Elliott — the most by a Wolverine in a single game since outfielder Matt Ramsey in 2016.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for this rivalry, and we just feel in rivalry games you show that respect by bringing your best effort,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “We had the good fortune of it being a hitters night tonight, and our guys did a great job of squaring up pitches.”
It took just two pitches for Elliott to record his first of the game, a 346-foot home run over the right-field wall in the first official at-bat. Not to be outdone, graduate third baseman Matt Frey joined in on the first inning’s action with a 400-plus foot home run of his own.
After a close fielder’s choice play put a Michigan base runner on first, things cascaded in a hurry for the Spartans in the second inning, as a single from senior first baseman Jack Van Remortal and a walk of redshirt junior left fielder Jordon Rogers set up a second home run for Elliott, this one a grand slam.
“We were trying to punch them in the mouth early,” Elliott said. “Just make as big an impact as we can and build off it. Sometimes things happen, balls fly over the fence, and everyone just constantly smokes the ball.”
Between the third and fifth innings, the Wolverines added two more runs, including a solo home run from junior designated hitter Tito Flores. On the opposite side of the scorecard, the Spartans broke into the runs column with a two-RBI triple from catcher Bryan Broecker.
Any hopes of a rally were short-lived, however, as Michigan State once again suffered from a cascade of mistakes, resulting in three runs for Michigan on four hits and an error.
“We were trying to keep the pedal on the metal all the way through,” Elliott said. “Approach-wise, we were trying to attack consistently, not forcing things to happen, and just make solid contact every at-bat.”
On the mound, sophomore left-hander Connor O’Halloran put up a quality start of 5.2 innings with only two runs and five hits, before being replaced by freshman right-hander Avery Goldensoph. Goldensoph gave up a triple in the bottom of the seventh, however Michigan State was unable to capitalize after a flyout by left fielder Casey Mayes.
The Wolverines’ scoring once again came in bunches in the eighth and ninth innings, starting with a 350-foot solo home run from graduate center fielder Joe Stewart. A fielding error from Michigan State turned a stolen third base attempt by Burton into Michigan’s 13th run of the game, and the offensive fireworks were capped off in the ninth just how they had started in the first — a home run from Elliott to bring in three runs and end the Wolverines’ scoring at 18 runs.
Michigan State finally recorded a two-run home run of their own in the bottom of the inning against sophomore right-hander Ahmad Harajii — but the dream of an improbable comeback would ultimately prove too little too late as freshman right-hander Jake Keaser took over and recorded the final three outs while giving up only one additional run.
“We don’t want to keep creating situations where we can’t get an out from the bullpen,” Bakich said. “We had already started the inning with a walk, a homer and a double so we just needed to shut it down. Had Keaser not gotten the final three outs, we would’ve had Ryan Zimmer go out there and get them.”
Following a 14-5 thrashing at the hands of Notre Dame earlier this week, Michigan felt they had something to prove. To Elliott, the numbers speak for themselves.
“It was tough losing to a rival like Notre Dame,” Elliott said. “But it made this weekend even bigger for us. We hate Michigan State and we prepare all season for them, so it feels good to have our game plan pay off, especially in the way it did today.”