Connor O’Halloran gave an emphatic yell as he walked off the field in the eighth inning.
The sophomore left-hander had just struck out his 13th batter of the evening.
It’s not clear what O’Halloran ate for breakfast Thursday morning. But whatever it was, it gave him the power to do almost anything he wanted to on the mound. Righty, lefty, it didn’t matter — O’Halloran racked up out after out, and Dayton had very little success.
In a battle of southpaws, the Michigan baseball team (9-8) defeated the Flyers (8-7), 2-1, to win its first home game of the season Thursday night — its first win in front of fans since 2019.
O’Halloran looked exceptionally poised in his first start at Ray Fisher Stadium. His 13 strikeouts were the most by a Michigan starter this season, and he allowed just three hits and a single run.
“(O’Halloran had) a lot of strikeouts, which meant we didn’t have to make a ton of plays,” grad-transfer outfielder Joe Stewart said. “You could tell early on, he definitely had his good stuff today, and his fastball was alive and moving really well.”
Added Michigan coach Erik Bakich: “Tonight was a masterpiece. He had an outstanding pitching performance from start to finish, just working ahead, attacking with his fastball using a slider and change when he needed to. He did a great job of getting ahead and working fast and throwing strikes. That was just your picture perfect pitching and defense kind of a game.”
On the other side of the ball, the Wolverines’ offense looked solid.
In the bottom of the second inning, Michigan found itself with the bases loaded and one out. Sophomore infielder Brandon Lawrence, despite boasting just two plate appearances this season, drew a crucial walk to get the Wolverines on the board first.
“We try to be selective at the plate,” Stewart said. “A lot of pitching staffs will try to nibble around us and get us to beat ourselves. So the goal for us and the approach is always to just be selective at the plate and take our walks when we get them because obviously it’s a free base runner.”
In the third, Stewart showed the crowd his bat was still hot after a .350 run during the team’s southern swing, hitting a leadoff double, stealing third base and then sliding under the catcher’s tag to score on a sacrifice fly.
Dayton got on the board in the seventh inning behind a double down the right-field line by DH Jay Curtis and a single by right-fielder Alex Neff. Despite the run, O’Halloran stayed in the zone, striking out the next batter and forcing a routine grounder to shortstop to retire the side.
“A big part of our culture is protecting the Fish,” O’Halloran said in reference to the team’s home stadium. “That’s just something that we take really close to heart. It’s just a complete team effort out there, just making sure we play a tight game.”
The true test for Michigan on Thursday was how its bullpen would respond after a tough loss on Tuesday evening to Vanderbilt. So, clenching a one-run lead in the ninth inning, all eyes were on sophomore right-hander Chase Allen. Allen stepped up to the challenge, striking out the first batter, forcing a pop fly to retire the second and a groundout to seal the victory.
Overall, Michigan’s biggest weakness — its pitching — proved crucial in Thursday’s win. And the fact that the Wolverines’ starting pitchers finally seem to be growing in confidence, bodes well for Michigan’s fortunes as the season progresses.