Behind Hill, Michigan tops Gophers, swings momentum

By Ben Fidelman, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 5, 2014

The Michigan baseball team has scored at least six runs in each of its last four games, but Saturday, it combined hot offense with stellar pitching to return to its winning ways.

Coming off an extra-inning loss to Minnesota on Friday, the Wolverines hoped to swing momentum in their direction, and they did just that in an 8-1 rout.

It didn’t take long to get the bats going. Michigan (4-4 Big Ten, 14-16-1 overall) took advantage of a leadoff walk when Kyle Jusick slapped an RBI single.

The Wolverines got to the Gopher (4-4, 16-10) pitching staff in the second, capitalizing on an error and a hit batter to get the merry-go-round running. Michigan pushed two runs across using a sacrifice fly, three stolen bases and a single.

Sophomore left-hander Evan Hill ran into trouble in the fourth when Minnesota hit back-to-back singles followed by a walk to load the bases with one out. But he induced two ground balls to quickly move out of the jam without harm.

“Things tend to speed up on me (in jams), and I get frustrated,” Hill said. “I was throwing balls and missing my spots and was happy to have Coach (Sean) Kenny come out and talk to me. I told him that if I get in those kinds of jams, come out and talk to me sooner. Once coach came out to talk to me, things slowed down and I improved my mechanics, which led to my success.”

Michigan’s offensive showcase continued in the fifth inning, when freshman right fielder Jackson Lamb hit a bomb to left-center field for his second home run of the season.

Although the bats got the fans on their feet, Hill provided something that Michigan has failed to find lately: 6.2 innings of work. One of the issues that the team has faced the last few weeks is blowing through the bullpen in one or two games early in the weekend, leaving the pitching staff fairly barren come the end of the weekend series.

“If your starting pitching can give you quality starts and get into the seventh inning then you’re going to be in a position to win a lot of games,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “In order to do that you have to pitch to contact and minimize the free passes and three-ball counts and not throw a lot of pitches per hitter.”

Not only did Hill provide a quality outing in terms of length, but also shut out the Gophers, allowing just five hits.

After Hill departed the game in the seventh the barrage of Wolverine scoring didn’t let up, adding two more insurance runs.

“I think the offense is starting to click and dial in the approach that we want to have at the plate,” Hill said. “That is a big weight off of our pitching staff so that we can relax and play our game and as a team we are going to come together because of that and have a lot more success later on down the year.”