Baseball in the Big Ten faces constant battles with Mother Nature for playing time early in the spring.
This past weekend, Michigan (1-0 Big Ten, 8-8 overall) moved its series against Iowa (0-1, 8-6) to DeKalb, Ill. because the Hawkeyes” field was deemed unplayable.
But that didn”t stop the teams from canceling three of their four games over the weekend because of inclement weather.
Michigan was victorious Friday night thanks to a strong finish.
Before the eighth inning began, the Wolverines trailed Iowa 2-0. But when Iowa shortstop Kurt Vitense grounded into the game-ending 4-6-3 double play in the bottom of the ninth, the scoreboard read Michigan 4, Iowa 3.
For the first seven innings the Wolverines” bats were kept mum by Iowa hurler Chad Blackwell.
“We we”re hitting him,” Michigan captain Scott Tousa said. “But we were hitting them right at people.”
Finally Michigan first baseman Nate Wright made some noise of his own by leading off the top half of the eighth with his team-leading third home run of the season. It was his second homer in as many games.
Jordan French and Mike Sokol followed him with back-to-back doubles to tie the game.
That marked the end of Blackwell”s afternoon on the hill.
Unfortunately for Iowa, reliever Reed Pawelk left his control in Iowa City.
Pawelk walked three more batters that inning and allowed Michigan”s final two runs to score because of wild pitches.
“He was throwing it all over the place,” said Tousa, who scored the Wolverines” final run.
After scoring four runs on just three hits, Michigan returned to the field with a 4-2 lead.
That lead was soon in jeopardy.
With two outs, Iowa benefited from a hit batsman, a balk and a single to cut the lead to one and bring the winning run to the plate.
But Michigan shortstop Bill LaRosa ended the rally by charging a ball that deflected off of the Wolverines” No. 1 pitcher Bobby Korecky and completing the barehanded assist.
“That was really a do-or-die play for us,” Michigan coach Geoff Zahn said. “It was really exciting for Bill.”
The Wolverines also closed the game with their second double play of the afternoon.
Korecky earned the complete game win to move his season record to 3-1 and drop his ERA to 2.43.
“They got some hits on Korecky early,” Tousa said. “But he made the adjustments and shut them down.”
“He pitched well against them last year,” Zahn said. “And they were keying on his inside stuff early. He adjusted, using the outside breaking ball more. He used the whole plate and really pitched well.”
While the Iowa field was unplayable, Ralph McKinzie Field was not big-league quality either.
“You need to stay aggressive on those surfaces,” Tousa said. “Every hop is another chance for a bad bounce.”
Cold weather and high winds kept the Wolverines from playing any more games over the weekend.
“We would have liked to play more games,” Zahn said. “The wind chill was about five degrees. We even had ice forming under the tarp overnight.”
Michigan will next brave the cold in Bowling Green tomorrow afternoon.