In the bottom of the first inning of the Michigan baseball team’s Tuesday game against Central Michigan, Jake Bivens smacked a line drive to left center field. As the junior third baseman turned the corner around first base, his run turned into a slow jog on his way to a stand-up double.
Bivens’ leadoff hit set the stage for the rest of the game, which saw the 20th-ranked Wolverines’ lineup have little trouble getting on base, powering Michigan to a 9-7 win over the Chippewas.
Bivens’ hit helped the Wolverines (17-5) take the early 1-0 lead, as he scored after two consecutive groundouts pushed him home.
Junior right fielder Johnny Slater, who made his first home start of the season, made a powerful impression when he crushed the ball for a two-run double off the left center field wall in the second inning.
“It felt good,” said Slater. “My swing is starting to feel better and it’s getting better every day.”
Added Michigan coach Erik Bakich: “He’s been working hard. He had some tough luck earlier in the season, but nobody has lost any confidence in his ability. It was good to see him drive a ball to the fence, get a couple RBIs and get on the bases. He can change the game with his speed.”
The offense continued to pour on runs in the second inning. Slater stole third base standing up and Bivens grounded into a fielder’s choice to drive him in. Bivens followed suit, stealing second base and eventually crossing home from a single by fifth-year senior left fielder Matt Ramsay.
Overall, six Wolverine batters recorded RBIs on Tuesday. But more notably, they stole a season-high six bases.
“We saw that our opponent had given up a lot of stolen bases, so we thought that would be something to push and take some chances,” Bakich said. “We talk a lot about getting extra bases and getting into scoring position. Our guys did a good job of getting those opportunities.”
After encountering trouble from Central Michigan (1-2 Mid-American, 5-20 overall) in the seventh inning that resulted in a tied score of 6-6, Michigan responded immediately.
Ramsay walked and junior first baseman Carmen Benedetti singled to start the frame. They executed a double steal with no throw from the catcher. With both runners in scoring position, junior catcher Harrison Wenson hit a sacrifice fly and scored Ramsay to recapture Michigan’s lead.
The play after, the Wolverines again showcased their speed, as Benedetti scored on a wild pitch to extend their lead, 8-6.
“We have a team that understands that you’re going to have to a take a punch and you’re going to have to get back up,” Bakich said. “Multiple times now, we’ve had to find a way (to win). It’s a sign of a team that’s tough and resilient.”
Unlike most of the team’s previous games, it was not Michigan’s pitching that carried the team. Rather, the Wolverines swung consistently and had their best day of the season so far on the basepaths. And it paid dividends.