Following a sweep in the first home series of the season last weekend, the Michigan baseball team rolled into Cincinnati to take on Xavier in a one-off-Wednesday-night match up.
And the Wolverines’ pitching staff could not keep the team in the game.
“Today we just got out to a bad start,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said of his pitchers’ performances. “We didn’t look ready to go.”
Michigan’s pitching staff has struggled with consistency all season, giving up an average 6.15 runs a game. In the series against Dayton, however, the pitchers seemed to be finding their form. Quality performances from the weekend’s trio of starters, headlined by an eight-inning-one-run performance from sophomore left-hander Connor O’Halloran, and mostly lockdown action from the bullpen was a promising sign from a unit struggling to find an identity.
But Wednesday was a renewed display of struggles that highlighted issues throughout the staff.
“In the midweek games, you’re gonna see the guys that are seven to 12 on the depth chart of our pitching staff pitching the majority of those innings,” Bakich said. “That’s the guys that pitch … (they) just have to give us their best effort.”
Senior left-hander Walker Cleveland started the game for the Wolverines. In his last appearance, he gave up just one run across a three-inning start against Vanderbilt. He was unable to recreate that success against a much-inferior opponent in the Musketeers.
“I thought Walker Cleveland pitched really well against Vanderbilt,” Bakich said. “But tonight just wasn’t his night.”
Cleveland pitched just 2.1 innings, giving up four runs in that short span. He was replaced with sophomore right-hander Ahmad Harajli, who proceeded to load the bases before also being pulled for sophomore left-hander Logan Wood.
Remarkably, Wood managed to dig Michigan out of the inning with no further damage. But in his next inning of work he allowed Xavier to double its score, giving up four runs off a wild pitch, two-run homer and RBI-double that ended his night.
“The first four innings weren’t good for us,” Bakich said.
Performances on the mound weren’t totally bleak. After the fourth inning, the pitching staff began to find rhythm. Graduate left-hander Angelo Smith and freshman right-hander Jake Keaser kept the Musketeer bats in check for the rest of the game.
“When Angelo Smith went in the game, he really settled it down.” Bakich said. “(And) Jake Keaser did a really good job out of the bullpen, putting a zero up in the eighth.”
The last five innings were scoreless, but despite the stabilization, the early pitching woes cost Michigan the game. Pitching has been the Wolverines’ weakness all season.
And against Xavier, Michigan was buried by its own staff.