Eyeing a series sweep of Nebraska on Sunday, the Michigan baseball team had one last chance to deliver at the plate in the seventh inning. With two outs and no one on base, the Wolverines wanted to extend their two-run lead and take pressure off sophomore right-hander Ryan Nutof in relief.
But pressure was exactly what Michigan fed off of rather than succumb to — as it has all season en route to a 6-2 Big Ten record. Facing two outs, the Wolverines added another three runs for insurance before Nutof retired six straight batters for a 6-1 victory.
Before Nutof took the mound in the eighth inning, it was junior first baseman Carmen Benedetti in the seventh that set Michigan up for success. By remaining disciplined at the plate, Benedetti drew his conference-leading 34th walk of the season and put himself in scoring position on a passed ball.
The next three hitters didn’t seem to mind the pressure of a two-out situation, either. Junior catcher Harrison Wenson and senior outfielder Cody Bruder notched singles, followed by a double from the power-hitting sophomore Drew Lugbauer. The latter two batters drove in three crucial insurance runs, all with two down in the inning.
This type of timely production has become commonplace for the Wolverines (6-2 Big Ten, 25-9 overall). Over the weekend, Michigan scored nine runs with two away, helping it secure victory over Nebraska in all three contests.
It’s not just the offense that gets going with two outs, however.
The Wolverine defense gets animated and louder as well, urging on its pitcher to put away the final batter.
Friday night, the dugout audibly cheered on junior left-hander Brett Adcock to finish the final out of the sixth inning. Adcock forced a pop-up, and Benedetti made a sliding catch in shallow right field to close out the top of the inning.
Michigan coach Erik Bakich loves the intensity of his team in high-pressure situations, but doesn’t want his players to be the only ones making noise in Ray Fisher Stadium.
“We’ll figure out all the things the fans can do to give us energy in our dugout,” Bakich said, “and we’ll give them energy right back with the way we play.”
Michigan brought enough intensity in high-pressure situations to dominate the Cornhuskers this weekend. To maintain their energy for their matchup with Toledo (3-6 Mid-American, 8-28-1 overall) on Wednesday, the Wolverines had a much-needed day off Monday to focus on their schoolwork.
“Our focus right now has to be on recovery and academics,” Bakich said. “The guys have to get their legs underneath them and sharpen their academic pencils. I know they’ll use Monday and Tuesday very wisely to get organized for final exams.”
After the short break and a home game against the Rockets on Wednesday, Michigan will travel to Iowa this weekend for a three-game set against the Hawkeyes.