After the No. 13 Michigan baseball team put forth a lackluster offensive effort in its series opener against No. 18 Oklahoma on Thursday, the Wolverines’ bats came out on fire Friday afternoon. Michigan notched 17 hits to cruise to a 14-4 victory.
Statistically, the Sooners boast one of the best pitching staffs in the nation, entering the game with a combined 2.81 earned-run average. And while the Wolverines (6-3 Big Ten, 28-7 overall) recorded just four hits Thursday, they equaled that in the first inning alone Friday.
After Oklahoma (5-4 Big 12, 27-11 overall) scored three runs in the first inning, Michigan had to produce quickly in order to not fall into an early hole. Fortunately for the Wolverines, they were able to capitalize on two-out runs batted in to put them ahead. After two fielder’s choice plays, redshirt sophomore left fielder Miles Lewis came to the plate with two outs. He continued Michigan’s momentum and singled to right field to score senior shortstop Michael Brdar from third base for the Wolverines first run of the game.
Later in the first inning, junior first baseman Jake Bivens singled up the middle to bring junior third baseman Drew Lugbauer to third. Lugbauer rounded third base and waited to see where the Sooner second baseman would throw the ball. Both paused, waiting to see what the other would do. It was Lugbauer who made the first move, sprinting towards home plate. The throw beat him there, but he managed to slide around the catcher to tack on another run for Michigan.
Two Wolverines hit the ball out of the park, including Lugbauer and senior centerfielder Johnny Slater, notching a three-run and two-run home run, respectively. Michigan ended the game with a team batting average of .415, compared to Oklahoma’s mere .161.
The most impressive feat of the day, though, was Michigan’s ability to score these runs with two outs. Nine of the 14 runs came with two outs, something the Wolverines weren’t able to take advantage of Thursday.
“It’s more about just getting on base,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “Their bullpen did a really nice job (Thursday), we were just fortunate to put two-out rallies together today and that was the difference.”
For what seemed like a stellar start to an inning for junior right-hander Ryan Nutof — retiring the first two batters he faced — it quickly became a disastrous situation. The Sooners took advantage of a batter being hit, a wild pitch and three connected hits to put three runs on the board. But Nutof shook off the poor start and didn’t allow another hit until the sixth inning.
“He settled down, it was pretty shaky there,” Bakich said. “That’s been our deal. We’ve taken a lot of punches early in a game and have had to come back, it’s something that we’ve talked about in training before since September 1.”
Once Michigan got out of the first inning jam, the defense had a relatively easy job. The Sooners did push for a late comeback in the eighth inning, though, when they loaded the bases with no outs. Sophomore right-hander Troy Miller was on the bump for the Wolverines and pitched into a double play, which scored a run but minimized the threat. Michigan followed it up with an easy out to end the inning.
The substantial lead gave the Wolverine bench an opportunity to see the field, with four players making their series debut and freshman outfielder Christian Bullock making his Michigan debut. Freshman outfielder Dominic Clementi even notched a hit to increase his average to .444 in 18 at-bats.
The win clinched the series for the Wolverines, but they aren’t done yet. A sweep of their first ranked opponent would be an impressive feat and may contribute to their NCAA Tournament seed at the end of the season.
“You never want to be complacent going in to any game,” said senior shortstop Michael Brdar. “It’s nice to get the first two, but tomorrow’s a new day. We definitely look forward to the opportunity.”