- Paul Sherman/Daily
By Jeremy Summitt, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 8, 2013
The Michigan baseball team’s offense has been dormant recently, but the Wolverines woke up to unleash two huge offensive innings en route to a 7-0 victory over Toledo (12-15 MAC, 19-27 overall) on Wednesday.
It didn’t take long, either.
Junior center fielder Michael O’Neill got things going with a hard double to left field after senior second baseman Patrick Biondi was hit by a pitch to lead off the game. Biondi immediately left the game with a back injury, and was replaced by sophomore second baseman Eric Jacobson. Michigan coach Erik Bakich said he was still gathering details from the team trainer regarding Biondi’s status.
“He’s as tough as they come,” Bakich said. “But he took a hit by pitch in the back, so that’s never good.”
After Biondi left the game, the Wolverines (10-8 Big Ten, 25-22) soon loaded the bases with no outs and the runs quickly followed. An inability to take advantage of runners in scoring position has been a consistent offensive liability this season, but there weren’t many signs of that on Wednesday.
Freshman designated hitter Jacob Cronenworth scored Jacobson on a groundout to first base, and O’Neill reached home off a passed ball on the next play. Sophomore right fielder Kevin White hit a deep ball to left-center, but settled for a sacrifice fly before a double steal scored sophomore left fielder Zach Zott to conclude the inning.
White slugged a pitch over the left-field wall for a three-run shot in his next at-bat to cap off the most productive offensive performance of any Wolverine. He went 2-for-3 with a run and four RBI on the evening.
“I simplified everything and slowed it down today,” White said. “I was a little more selective and just got better pitches to hit instead of chasing pitches that the pitchers wanted me to hit.”
Alongside a much-improved offensive showing, the pitching staff performed admirably as well. After they were roughed up on Tuesday, Bakich used a bounty of pitchers in this game, and the right-handed combination of sophomore James Bourque, senior Kyle Clark and freshman Alex Daar never disappointed. The trio combined to pitch a remarkable seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and striking out four.
“We wanted to use Bourque and Clark,” Bakich said. “They could only go two because that enables both of them to come back on Friday. We needed to save our pitching as best we can for the weekend. They did a great job of holding their offense down and attacking the strike zone.”
Sophomore right-hander Donnie Eaton and senior right-hander Chad Jasman finished out the game in the eighth and ninth, respectively. The entire pitching staff, from Bourque to Jasman, did a superb job at attacking the Toledo batters in the strike zone, staying away from too many full counts and forcing contact early in opposing at-bats. Utilizing both sides of the plate kept the opposing batters on edge and disallowed any Rockets to string quality at-bats together in any inning.
The Wolverines certainly needed the momentum boost stemming from the victory as they head into a crucial series with Purdue this weekend. With an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament slowly creeping out of reach barring a sweep of the remaining schedule, Michigan will need to rely on making the Big Ten Tournament and eventually emerging victorious. Getting back on track both offensively and with outstanding pitching performances couldn’t have come at a better time.