No. 25 Michigan (14-7 Big Ten) rolled over rival Ohio State (13-8 Big Ten) on Saturday, 7-0. In doing so, they regained the Wolverines’ stronghold on second place in the conference, rebounded from a disappointing game one loss and set the stage for a rubber match on Sunday.
Sophomore right-hander Cameron Weston was dominant from start to finish on the mound. He went six and two-thirds innings allowing zero runs and striking out five. Of his 101 pitches, only 57 of them were strikes. However, whenever Ohio State had an opportunity to score, Weston shut them down. He also benefited from some great defense, most notably from his middle infield. Fifth-year shortstop Benjamin Sems and junior second baseman Riley Bertram turned multiple double plays and minimized any Buckeye baserunners.
“I just wasn’t thinking much, I was just letting it rip,” Weston said. “I was using my defense to get me out of a couple of jams. Overall, felt really good on the mound. The slider today was helping me in the later innings.”
In the bottom of the second inning, Sems lined a single into left field. After stealing second base and a walk from redshirt junior outfielder Danny Zimmerman, the Wolverines found themselves with an early scoring chance. Soon, Bertram got Michigan on the board with an RBI single up the middle. He has struggled at the plate during this season, but on Saturday he was a pitcher’s nightmare.
The score stayed at 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth when the Wolverines went back to work. Once again, Sems got it started with a leadoff walk. He then made his way to third after a Buckeyes pickoff attempt went into right field. Sophomore outfielder Tito Flores continued an already strong weekend and worked a walk. Bertram stayed hot and drove a ball into the left-center gap, driving home two runs. He then swiped third base and scored on a wild pitch.
Unlike the first game of the series, Michigan did an excellent job of capitalizing on Ohio State’s mistakes. They turned sloppy errors into runs and made life easy for Weston.
“When we get good starting pitching like that, it’s a tremendous shot of confidence,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “It allows the offense to separate. He’s working ahead, keeping the defense engaged. He minimized walks really good.”
The Wolverines’ offense stayed hot in the sixth inning, too. With one out, Bertram roped a ball down the right-field line for his third hit and second double of the afternoon. Fifth-year infielder Christian Molfetta then crushed an opposite-field home run, emphatically extending the lead to 6-0.
Michigan tacked on another run in the bottom of the seventh via a Flores single. These runs would prove unnecessary, though, as the bullpen rebounded from yesterday’s letdown with a commanding two and one-third innings of shutdown ball.
“We haven’t played our best baseball here the last few weeks,” Bakich said. “It’s disappointing to lose any games, but especially a Friday game against Ohio State. I thought we showed up today and really competed well to even this thing up and get right back in the series.”
Tomorrow’s third game will not only decide the series but it will have a big influence on the top of the Big Ten, too.