In a matchup between two of the Big Ten’s best, No. 21 Indiana (24-11) emphatically defeated Michigan (24-13) 13-8 Saturday afternoon. The win gives the Hoosiers some breathing room as they try to chase down Nebraska and win the conference championship.
In the top of the second, Indiana appeared poised to score. After a walk and an error by fifth-year third-baseman Christian Molfetta, the Hoosiers found themselves with two men on and no outs. During the next at-bat, Weston quickly went down 3-0 in the count. With Indiana knocking on the door, the powerful right-hander zoned in and recorded a huge strikeout. He retired the next two batters and made his way back to the dugout without damage.
Weston’s ability to get out of jams was short-lived, though, as Indiana capitalized their next time up. In the top of the third, the Hoosiers lead off with a triple. Then, Molfetta made another error, the runner reached first safely, and the run scored easily. The Wolverines’ sloppiness continued. After a few more Indiana hits and a wild pitch, they extended the lead to 4-0. Weston was solid on the bump today. He pitched five innings, allowed four runs (one earned), and struck out four.
“Cam was fine,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “He seemed to be behind more hitters than he normally is. There were some tough plays that didn’t get made. That inning got away from us in the third.”
The defense was not up to their usual standards and Indiana was relentless during its at-bats. They tacked on three more runs in the top of the seventh via a homerun off of freshman left-hander Logan Wood.
Going into the bottom of the seventh, it appeared that Indiana would cruise to the victory. They had thoroughly outplayed Michigan and were firing on all cylinders. Then, the Wolverines did what they do best: they kept clawing.
Fifth-year shortstop Benjamin Sems started the rally with a single to the left side. He would advance to second on a wild pitch and sophomore infielder Ted Burton worked a walk. Sophomore outfielder Tito Flores finally got the Wolverines on the board with an RBI double. Michigan continued its surge after redshirt junior outfielder Danny Zimmerman walked. Molfetta, sophomore outfielder Clark Elliott, and sophomore infielder Jimmy Obertop all drove in runs via singles.
“The conference games all count the same,” Bakich said. “We need to not be focused on the standings and championships, we need to shrink the moment to make it about competing. It would have been easy for most teams to quit when you’re down seven in the late innings.”
By the end of the inning, the Wolverines had cut the lead from 7-0 to 7-5. They have had a knack for late-inning comebacks and they put themselves in a similar position today. However, instead of completing the massive comeback, their bullpen faltered. Graduate right-hander Joe Pace and junior right-hander Willie Weiss did not have their best stuff as the Hoosiers racked them for six runs in the top of the eighth. The 13-5 lead was enough for Indiana and they sailed through the final two frames. Michigan added three more runs in the bottom of the eighth, but they would prove meaningless.
“There’s good and bad in every game,” Bakich said. “Not getting the shutdown inning, that was disappointing. Two of our most trusted guys, Joe Pace and Willie Weiss, who pitch in the most high leverage situations for us, it doesn’t always go your way.”
Despite today’s letdown, Michigan has an opportunity to win the series tomorrow and increase its chances at a Big Ten title.
“I have no issues with our mentality,” Bakich said. “We are not lacking anything”