The Michigan baseball team kicked off its preseason tournament against Seton Hall this weekend in a four-game bout, with the frenetic weekend ending in a 2-2 split. The series was highlighted by two games in which a single run decided the outcome.
“Close games are always decided by one play, one pitch, one swing,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “It seemed to be back and forth, there was no quit in either team.”
Junior left-hander Michael Hendrickson took the mound for the preseason finale that ended in disappointment in the top half of the last inning. The match followed a 10-7 victory earlier in the day over the Pirates in a continuation of the previously delayed game.
The Wolverines got off to a slow start, as Seton Hall earned three hits that culminated in two runs in the second inning. Responding quickly in the bottom of the second, senior catcher Harrison Wenson tripled, and was driven in from an RBI groundout from senior shortstop Michael Brdar to tack on a run shortly after.
Sophomore second baseman Ako Thomas started the offensive engine, though, in the bottom of the third inning with a single, before eventually stealing third base. Junior first baseman Jake Bivens reached first on a walk, and redshirt sophomore left fielder Miles Lewis drove him in on an RBI single.
Lewis and junior third baseman Drew Lugbauer would score in the same inning on back-to-back RBIs to give Michigan a 5-2 lead.
Heading into the ninth inning, the Wolverines led 6-3 due to a run from Thomas off a Bivens RBI and a Seton Hall run in the fifth. Sophomore right-hander Jack Bredeson came in to pitch the ninth inning and gave up five unanswered runs, featuring a three-run home run from the Pirates. They would go on to take the last game of the series, 8-6.
“As a team, we did a good job battling,” Wenson said. “We played pitch-to-pitch and did a good job with that. They’re a really scrappy team and put the bat on the ball.”
In its season opener in Port St. Lucie, Fla., junior left-hander and ace Oliver Jaskie took the mound for his first start.
The Wolverines pounced first in the third inning after Jaskie’s two-inning shutout that included only one surrendered double. Sophomore first baseman Jimmy Kerr jumpstarted their offense with the team’s first hit of the season on a one-out single.
Brdar followed in Kerr’s footsteps with a single, and senior outfielder Johnny Slater lofted a sacrifice fly to bring in the pair. Thomas drove a single into the outfield, picking up another RBI and giving the Wolverines a 3-0 lead.
The Pirates did not back down, though, and in the third inning drove in a lone run, followed by three runs in the fourth to take a 4-3 lead.
Michigan responded in style, as right fielder Nick Poirer lofted one over the fence to force the game to a tie heading to the top of the fifth inning.
Even with a one-out double from Lugbauer, the Wolverines could not drive in another run in the contest, and they sacrificed a run in the fifth inning that ultimately was the dagger.
Junior right-hander Alec Rennard took the mound Saturday to begin Michigan’s double-header redemption day.
And redeem themselves they did, as the Wolverines were able to tie the series, 1-1, with a walk-off single from Lewis.
“It was great,” Lewis said. “I have to give credit to the guys getting on before me and doing their job.”
After a scoreless first inning, the game started in similar fashion to Friday’s debut. But this time, Seton Hall struck first with two runs in the top of the second.
The trio of Wenson, who started the surge for Michigan’s comeback with a liner into left field, sophomore right fielder Jonathan Engelman, who went 3-for-4 on the contest, and Lewis all led the charge for the Wolverines.
Rennard forfeited an RBI double in the top of the third inning but Michigan was able to dig itself out of the hole quickly with two back-to-back runs off RBIs from Engelmann and Thomas, tightening the Pirates’ lead to one.
The Wolverines’ climb back to victory took hold in the fifth inning. Lewis earned a run off a Wenson RBI, and Engelmann followed with a two-run RBI double to give Michigan its first lead of the day, 6-5.
Under the dominant performance of junior right-hander Jayce Vancena, the Wolverines were able to sit down Seton Hall and produce an RBI single from Slater in the seventh to give them a 7-6 lead. The Pirates would not shut down, though, and a run in the top of the eighth inning would send the game to extra innings.
In the bottom of the 10th inning, Lewis chopped one to shallow right field to drive in the winning run from third base and earn Michigan’s first win of the season.
In their second game, only going seven innings, the Wolverines jumped out to an extremely fast start with an RBI double from Kerr that highlighted a nine-run inning. The Pirates responded in the third with four runs and in the fourth with three runs, but Michigan added to its lead and established a 10-7 advantage.
After a delay due to darkness, the Wolverines never scored or forfeited any runs, allowing them to transition into the last game of the weekend on a 15-hit, 10-7, win.