What could’ve been better for first-year Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich than getting his first win as the head of the program against Fordham on Friday afternoon? Getting his second win on Saturday.
“I think we all know that there (are) many, many more to come,” Bakich said.
In a three-game series against the Rams in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Michigan earned a convincing 9-1 victory on Friday. That was followed by another blowout victory in the first part of its doubleheader on Saturday, highlighted by an offensive explosion en route to a 10-2 win. The Wolverines capped off the series by falling to Fordham 14-11 in the second half of the doubleheader, as their late rally fell short on Saturday.
On Friday, Michigan parlayed a strong start into a rout after jumping out to a 4-1 lead after the fourth inning. In the first, freshman second baseman Jacob Cronenworth hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score senior outfielder Patrick Biondi. The Wolverines’ offense stalled until the fourth inning, when a Biondi single knocked in two more runs and another crossed the plate on a throwing error.
Sophomore pitcher James Bourque allowed only one run in 5.2 innings, leading the Michigan pitchers’ efforts in stopping Fordham. Junior outfielder Michael O’Neill put an exclamation point on the Wolverine victory, belting a three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth over the left-field fence.
Michigan’s propensity for scoring runs in the fourth inning continued in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday, as sophomore first baseman Kyle Jusick and sophomore shortstop Dylan Delaney both had RBI doubles to lead the Wolverines to a three-run inning, giving them a 4-0 lead.
On the mound, Michigan freshman pitcher Evan Hill had his second strong start in a row to begin his career, allowing two earned runs in 5.2 innings while recording two strikeouts.
“He’s poised and he’s got the confidence and the demeanor that’s atypical and uncommon of a freshman,” Bakich said.
O’Neill once again helped the Wolverines extend a big lead, doubling to left center to knock in two more runs in the sixth inning. Freshman third basemen Travis Maezes homered in the eighth inning to conclude the scoring for Michigan. With the big lead in hand, fifth-year senior pitcher Chad Jasman recorded five strikeouts as he pitched the final 3.1 innings for the Wolverines.
The second game of the doubleheader looked to be a complete disaster for Michigan, as Fordham tagged Wolverine pitching for nine runs in the first two inning. Michigan starter sophomore Trent Szkutnik lasted just 1.2 innings, giving up seven runs — six of which were earned.
The Fordham lead ballooned to 11-1 before the Wolverines’ bats finally awoke and the pitchers on the mound settled in.
“There’s no time limit,” O’Neill said. “We just play until the last pitch, until the last out is recorded.”
As it inched back into the game, Michigan scored at least one run in every inning after the third. Down 14-8 going into the bottom of the ninth inning, the Wolverines scored three runs in a wild inning that featured two batters being hit by pitch and two Fordham errors. The game ended for Michigan with the tying run at the plate, before sophomore catcher Kevin White struck out with the bases loaded.
Though Bakich’s third win of his Michigan career didn’t come as easily as the first two, he wasn’t discouraged by the team’s loss in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
“If they fight like that all season, then they are going to win a Big Ten championship,” Bakich said.