The Michigan baseball team lost to Indiana, 9-5, on Saturday after its relief pitchers couldn't defend a slim lead. Becca Mahon/Daily. Buy this photo.

As has been the story of the season, the Michigan baseball team’s bullpen is not up to par to win close games. Saturday only reinforced that notion after six runs in the last three innings caused a close defeat.

The Wolverines (24-19 overall, 10-7 Big Ten) lost to Indiana (21-25, 7-10), 9-5, to even the weekend series at a game apiece. In a game they led midway through, inconsistent relievers cost Michigan a manageable win.

“It’s just keeping on competing,” junior left-hander Jacob Denner said. “I think we’ve shown some really good flashes of that and just doing that on a day-to-day basis. We know we have the arms, we know we have the mentality, it’s just doing it more consistently.”

The arms struggled early though, as the Hoosiers came out hot. Designated hitter Matthew Ellis broke the game open in the first inning with a two-RBI double to take an immediate 2-0 lead.

The Wolverine batters answered in the bottom of the same inning, making an offensive surge of their own capped off by an RBI single by junior designated hitter Tito Flores. The hole they had dug earlier vanished, and the pitchers worked off of a clean slate.

That slate soon turned in Michigan’s favor as the offense continued to hum. In the fourth inning, a sac bunt by junior second baseman Ted Burton put two men in scoring position before junior right fielder Clark Elliott was intentionally walked. Graduate third baseman Matt Frey saw the bases loaded with two outs. One strike away from losing the crucial chance, he bombed it deep over the second baseman’s head and off the right field wall. All three runners scored to seize Michigan’s first lead.

Junior right-hander Cam Weston was pulled for relievers in the sixth inning after a standard performance of five strikeouts and three runs. With the game still in the balance, the Wolverines needed a steady performance from the bullpen to close it out.

They didn’t get that.

Instead, graduate right-hander Angelo Smith let four straight men reach base in the top of the seventh, capped off by an RBI walk. But it wasn’t all on the pitcher as two Michigan players lost a ball in the sun..

“The margin is really small,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “Two quick hits first and second, nobody out and then the pop up that was kind of in no man’s land. … But still, we’ve got to find a way to catch that ball because that’s first and second (runners) out versus bases loaded, nobody out.”

Trying to soften the wound, Denner came in with the bases loaded and no outs. He forced a double play on his first batter faced, but due to an earlier missed catch it did not end the inning. The Hoosiers took advantage and earned  the lead with two runs to make it 6-5.

They only piled on more in the top of the ninth inning. Four hits and an error cost another three runs to make the deficit 9-5, which held as the final score.

“(Indiana is) a dangerous offense and (you) can’t make mistakes or they’re going to punish them,” Bakich said. “They did that today.”

As the bullpen struggled, Michigan’s bats didn’t do them any favors late in the game. The Hoosiers shut them out in the last five innings with just five players reaching base.

A strong start was not enough for the Wolverines. With a three-run lead after the fourth inning, they gave up seven straight runs over the rest of the game, and Indiana took advantage.