When Indiana starting pitcher Matt Rice exited Yesterday”s game in the bottom of the eighth inning after a one-out hit by Scott Tousa, he knew that he”d given his team all that he had.
“I was tired,” Rice said. “They let me go as far as I could go. I could have kept going, but I didn”t feel as if I had to. I was having trouble just keeping my breath at that point.”
Because Indiana”s bullpen had been pitching well and Rice was just coming off an injury, the decision was easy for coach Bob Morgan.
“His arm was tightening up on him, so I don”t question myself at all. Amen,” Morgan said.
The Wolverines (5-3 Big Ten, 16-12 overall) were happy to see him exit the game. Down 2-0 at that point, they rallied back to win 3-2 in 10 innings, capping the comeback with a Nate Wright, bases-loaded single for his third RBI of the game.
Heading into Sunday”s game, the Wolverines had already taken the first three games of the weekend from the Hoosiers (2-9, 17-17-1) 6-2, 11-1 and 6-3. Although they were outhit 10-9, the Wolverines produced with runners on base and were able to complete the four-game series sweep, their first in the Big Ten since they took four in a row from Michigan State two years ago.
The biggest hits a bases-loaded, two-run single in the eighth and a game-winning RBI basehit in the tenth were both delivered by Wright in the cleanup spot, who is now hitting .355.
“Nate looked very relaxed at the plate today,” Michigan coach Geoff Zahn said. “He knows that he can hit. He believes that he can hit anybody and I am glad that we had him up in those situations.”
Wright was ready to hit once the Hooisers walked Michigan third baseman Brock Koman.
“When they walked Brock to put me up to the plate I was like “Are you kidding me? I”m going to hit the ball,”” Wright said. “They were pitching around Brock to get to me.”
The Wolverines committed two errors in the game. They also had a couple of defensive miscues during Indiana”s two-run first inning. While the Wolverines could have been hurt due to certain plays which should have been made but weren”t, they were saved by a play that probably shouldn”t have been made but was.
Indiana had loaded the bases in the 10th inning and catcher Gibran Hamdan was at bat. He lined a Jeff Trzos fastball toward right fielder Brandon Roberts. Roberts caught the ball and in a fluid motion fired it home. Indiana designated hitter Blake St. Clair, who had tagged up from third, was still five feet from the plate when the throw arrived. Michigan catcher Alex Coleman put the tag on and the rally was killed.
Just a .225 hitter over the season, Roberts knows that his defensive abilities are highly valued.
“The right fielder is supposed to have one of the strongest arms on the team,” Roberts said. “The ball wasn”t hit too deep. I had a lot of momentum going in and I had a lot of adrenaline. In that situation they have got to be tagging.”
The play put the Wolverines on an emotional high.
“That play that Roberts made was do or die. Any throw that nails the guy at home plate is a great throw,” Zahn said. “That was a huge play it really picked us up and it is deflating for the other team.”
Michigan”s pitching, which has been excellent all year, came through Sunday. Starter Rich Hill threw eight innings allowing seven hits and two runs in his first Big Ten start of the year. He set a new career high with 11 strikeouts.
After a two-out rally resulted in a 2-0 Indiana lead in the top of the first, Hill settled down for seven scoreless innings.
“That was a long first inning,” Hill said. “I got two outs right away. All I needed was a groundball and I just lost it for a second there. I felt good after that.”
Trzos threw two scoreless innings to get the win in relief.
The team obviously feels good about themselves having won the last six games.
“Winning gets contagious and you start to believe that there is no way that you can lose,” Zahn said.