Masterpiece on the Hill, White bomb lead Wolverines over Buckeyes

Allison Farrand/Daily
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By Zach Shaw, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 10, 2014

The ball soared high into the partly-cloudy sky. As the Ohio State left-fielder ran after it, 2,064 fans followed the ball, quietly leaning in anticipation.

The anticipation was short-lived however, as the ball tailed left, sailing over the bullpen for a 330-foot strike on junior outfielder Kevin White.

The Michigan baseball team had sent 41 hitters to the plate over 11 innings in its series against Ohio State, but none had crossed the plate to score a run. But White’s monster foul ball still drew cheers from the crowd; it was the hardest hit ball of the weekend, and fans were eager for any form of offense.

Two pitches later, the largest crowd at Ray Fisher Stadium since May 1, 2010 was treated to an even better offensive display, as White drove a 1-2 pitch even higher and farther to left-center field for a solo home-run. As the pep band played “The Victors,” the fans erupted, and that was all Evan Hill needed.

The sophomore left-hander pitched eight shutout innings, the offense pieced together five runs, and the Wolverines (12-11 Big Ten, 25-26-1 overall) earned a 5-1 victory over the Buckeyes to even the series.

“It was a great win for our team,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “Evan Hill was sensational, and he allowed us to make the plays on defense. Our offense was able to get to their pitchers eventually and push some runs across.”

After Friday night’s 1-0 loss in a pitcher’s duel between the bitter rivals, Saturday’s game began similarly. Neither team was able to get more than a couple singles through the first two innings, until Whites homer broke the tie for good over the Buckeyes (9-11, 28-23).

“White’s home run was huge for us,” Bakich said. “It allowed Hill to pitch with a lead and go after hitters with more intensity, and our offense was able to follow White and attack the ball.”

After White’s blast, the offense was able to tack on four more runs. Behind a double by junior outfielder Jackson Glines and three sacrifice flies, Michigan was able to piece together enough offense for the win.

But the story of the game was Hill. Surrendering just five hits, one walk and zero runs over eight innings of work, the sophomore managed to match the previous night’s work of fellow starter and junior left-hander Trent Szkutnik, who came one out shy of a complete game in the 1-0 loss.

“I tried not to think about it too much,” Hill said. “But a lot of people were saying how I couldn’t match what Trent did. I was just trying to throw strikes and pound the zone, but it feels good to see us both do so well.”

With the pair combining for 16.6 innings in the first two games, the Wolverines find themselves with plenty of bullpen options for Sunday’s rubber match. Freshman left-hander Brett Adcock will make his first start since March 4, but will be on a relatively short leash.

“When you have two guys who can put out sensational starts in back-to-back games, it gives you a lot of flexibility,” Bakich said. “Hopefully we don’t have to use it too much, but we’ll have a lot of arms ready to go.”

With more good weather expected and a series-deciding matchup against the Buckeyes, the 2,064 fans who patiently waited for the offense to show up will be ready to go too.