In the last game of the series, the Nittany Lions put up a run in the first inning — attempting to salvage the weekend. Michigan had no need to worry, though, as it knocked in five runs in the first inning alone, and then nine more to take the game, 14-1, to clinch the sweep.
The offensive burst was just more of the same from the Michigan baseball team as it scored a total of 39 runs this weekend against Penn State — not surprisingly the most the Wolverines have scored in a weekend series all season.
While Michigan has been impressive on both sides of the ball all year, its bats have been steadily hot as of late.
Entering the series against the Nittany Lions, the Wolverines were fresh off two high-scoring midweek games in which they decisively handled Toledo and Central Michigan, 12-0 and 13-4, respectively.
“The more experience you can get, more reps, more live at-bats that you can get, the better you’ll be,” said sophomore right fielder Jonathan Engelmann. “If you take four, five games off, it’s hard to get back into a rhythm, so having those five-game weeks are really nice.”
In the past, the Wolverines have struggled to remain consistent all game, but the depth of the lineup has proven that they can continue the momentum from inning to inning — having scored in 15 of 24 innings this weekend.
And in all three contests against Penn State, every Michigan player that stepped in the batter’s box was a threat.
In Friday’s 10-6 victory, the Wolverines tallied 11 hits. Engelmann, sophomore second baseman Ako Thomas and junior first baseman Jake Bivens were the most dangerous. All three had two hits on the day, batting eighth, first and sixth in the lineup, respectively.
Saturday saw three different Wolverines hit balls out of the park to contribute to a 15-2 triumph. Junior third baseman Drew Lugbauer hit two over the wall — one even landed in the outfield of Alumni Field — and he picked up four runs-batted in on the day. Engelmann also got in on the action, hitting his first career home run over the left-field wall in the seventh inning.
But no home run was quite as exciting for Michigan fans than that of redshirt freshman infielder Joe Pace. Not only did he get his first hit in a Wolverine uniform, but he also sent it over the centerfield wall. He was swarmed by his teammates and met with wild cheers as he tried to re-enter the dugout.
“He earned that moment,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “That was everyone in the dugout genuinely excited for Joe Pace because he’s such a team guy. He doesn’t get to play much but he works just as hard as everybody else. He’s just a great kid, great person so for him to have a big hit like that.
“For his first career hit happens to be a two-run, two-out, two-strike home run, you can’t script that stuff out any better. I’m happy for him.”
The bottom of the lineup impressed the most Sunday. Engelmann and sophomore designated hitter Nick Poirier each tallied three hits and one RBI. Even senior catcher Harrison Wenson, batting in the nine slot, singled through the gap between second and third base for his first hit of the series.
“It’s just a matter of getting in every day and taking pride in the work that you do,” Engelmann said. “Luck favors the prepared mind and today we got to see that hard work come into formation and we’re happy that it came out that way.”
It appears that the Wolverines bats have come alive, as they are about to enter the heart of their Big Ten season. For Michigan, the next test will be sustaining the production and proving it didn’t peak too early.