By Brad Whipple, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 23, 2014
All Kevin White could do was look.
As he gained momentum, the junior center fielder wanted nothing more than to hop the wall and grab Kyle Schwarber’s two-run homer. But as the ball soared higher, he realized there was no chance.
White, powerless, stopped and watched his team’s postseason aspirations grow bleaker at the hands of Indiana.
Along with the three-run rally that preceded the seventh-inning shot, the 18th-ranked Hoosiers extended their lead to 5-0 over the Michigan baseball team. And though they didn’t strike again, they completed the shutout Thursday night to advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, hoping to repeat last year’s title.
Meanwhile, the fifth-seeded Wolverines move to the loser’s bracket to play No. 8 seed Iowa in an elimination game Friday night.
“Indiana did a good job of stringing some quality at-bats together, and we didn’t,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “They showed why they’re a good team.”
It began in the sixth inning, when freshman left-hander Brett Adcock neared 100 pitches and his no-hitter vanished in the blink of an eye — by the skin of his teeth, he managed to get out of the jam that nearly took him out of the game. Going into the seventh, though, deep breaths and visits to the mound weren’t going to help the rookie any longer as he began falling behind in the counts and his composure fell apart at the seams.
Third baseman Dustin DeMuth led off the seventh-inning rout with a double to left field that freshman Jackson Lamb misjudged, and he later scored the Hoosiers’ first run after a bad hop ricocheted off Adcock’s leg to prevent the play at home. With two outs and two on, second baseman Casey Rodrigue tripled to center, marking the end of Adcock’s appearance as freshman right-hander Mac Lozer sprinted from the bullpen.
Considered by Bakich to be the go-to guy in a tight spot for relief, Lozer didn’t live up to expectations as he gave up the bomb to center field after eight pitches — Lozer screamed into his glove as the final nail hit the coffin.
Now up to Michigan’s anemic offense to make a comeback, closing the deficit was almost impossible — the Wolverines didn’t have a leadoff hitter reach base by that point and in the end went a combined 1-for-28.
It was bad enough for Michigan (13-11 Big Ten, 29-28-1 overall) that its offense put up the worst numbers of any game this season. It was even worse facing the nation’s fourth-best pitching staff with a 2.19 earned-run average — the Hoosiers’ starting pitchers haven’t given up more than three earned runs in a game since February.
Before the Wolverines fell into a deficit, they had managed to stay in the game with a pitcher’s duel between Adcock and right-hander Christian Morris. Adcock had been frustrated from the start, giving up two walks in the first inning and throwing 24 pitches. But he quickly found his rhythm thereafter by gaining more command on his pitches, especially those toward the outside corner of the strike zone.
Starting in the second, he retired 13 straight hitters with his high-80’s fastball and off-speed curve, tying his career high of seven strikeouts. The biggest swing and miss came from Big Ten Player of the Year Sam Travis, who failed to capitalize on a two-out RBI situation in the sixth inning.
But even though Travis didn’t execute, the first-seeded Hoosiers still finished the game with four two-out RBIs. With Morris continuing to match the lights-out pitching of Adcock, using an inside slider to catch Michigan batters by surprise, the game was decided when Indiana (21-3, 40-13) got on the board first.
In the postgame press conference, Bakich had to ask if he had gotten Morris’ name right — maybe by that point, he wanted to wipe the loss from his memory.
“Morris had a good rhythm out there and we weren’t able to break it,” Bakich said. “We hit some balls on the barrel, but not enough to do anything.”
Should Michigan defeat the Hawkeyes in Friday night’s game, the Wolverines will go head-to-head with Nebraska on Saturday.
Should they lose … well, there’s nothing left after that except a plane ride home.