On an afternoon in which the Wolverines’ offense was relatively quiet, sophomore left fielder Tito Flores was not. He had a monster game with one walk, three hits and four RBI. In each of his at-bats, he reached base. Flores was the silver lining for Michigan (13-7, Big Ten) today as they fell 7-4 to Ohio State (13-7).
While the Wolverines did have 12 hits, they only produced four runs, all courtesy of Flores.
However, none of his three hits were as significant as his two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth
inning. At the time, the game was tied at two. Flores saw a fastball, freed up his hands and pulled it to the outfield. It carried up and over the tall brick wall in left. Subsequently, the bench erupted for their teammate. They did not know it at the time, but that was the last time they would be excited about the game. Flores gave Michigan their last lead as the bullpen let up five more runs to the Buckeyes.
Aside from some traffic in the bottom of the ninth inning, it was the only time the Wolverines generated momentum. They went a lackluster 5-18 with runners on base, and only two of those came from players other than Flores. For Flores, his role in the lineup has fluctuated this season. At times, he has been as high as the three-hole. Today, he was down to eight. Amid the chaos of an ever-changing lineup, Flores remained confident.
“He’s been hitting the ball hard lately, just nothing to show for it,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “It was good to see those clutch hits fall for him. The two singles were huge. The two-out, two-run homer was a massive blast to take the lead.”
Michigan let a poor defensive performance from Ohio State go unnoticed. The Buckeyes committed five errors that only resulted in one run for the Wolverines. That, coupled with multiple base-running mistakes, ultimately marred Michigan. They are an aggressive team and that can play to their favor, especially considering the plethora of athletes on the roster. However, they look disoriented and lackluster against the Buckeyes.
In the bottom of the ninth, Flores worked a walk. He provided Michigan with a much-needed leadoff runner. But, reminiscent of earlier innings, his teammates faltered in the clutch. It was uncharacteristic of the Wolverines, who thrive on comebacks and late-inning rallies, to go so cold with scoring opportunities.
“We had a scoring opportunity there at the end,” Bakich said. “Riley (Bertram) did a good job of getting a (opposite-field) hit. That double play was obviously not what we needed there. Could’ve been more selective on that 0-0 pitch.”
Another detriment to the Wolverines was the top of the order. Typically, players like fifth-year catcher Griffin Mazur and sophomore infielder Jimmy Obertop are key cogs in the offense. More recently, redshirt sophomore outfielder Jordon Rogers has made an impact with his solid bat and excellent speed on the bases. Today, however, that trio went a measly 1-12 with three strikeouts.
“In a rivalry game with two good teams going at it, those mistakes are going to be under the microscope,” Bakich said. “When your opponent makes mistakes, you’ve got to find a way to turn it into scoring opportunities.”
Moving forward, Michigan has to get back to their clutch-hitting abilities if they are to compete with the Big Ten’s best. If not, the disappointment from today could become a recurring theme.