120 – For a starting pitcher in Major League baseball, this is the magic number. The number that calls for one final mound meeting with the skipper. The number that ultimately hands the ball over to the bullpen. 120 is the maximum number of pitches that most big-league managers will ordinarily let their starting hurler throw. But in college baseball – the land of aluminum bats, double-digit scoreboards, and therefore depleted pitching staffs – sometimes a 120-pitch performance can fall short of sufficient, and a manager will have to expand on the 120-pitch rule.
On Sunday, according to Michigan coach Rich Maloney, Penn State manager Joe Hindelang did just that with starting pitcher Jim Farrell.
“We felt like truthfully, if we had gotten into their ‘pen, they didn’t have anything – I think they were done cooked,” Maloney said.
Unfortunately for Maloney, his Wolverines (9-9 Big Ten, 21-18 overall) never did get past Farrell, who pitched the complete game in the Nittany Lions’ (10-10, 16-21) 6-4 victory that split the weekend series. Farrell surrendered only six hits and four runs against a potent Wolverine offense, while hurling 151 pitches.
“(Farrell) gave their team a championship effort,” Maloney said. “I told my team, ‘That’s a bulldog effort.’ ”
Farrell’s final product was very impressive, especially when it looked as though he may not even make it out of the first inning.
Michigan senior center fielder Gino Lollio led off in the bottom half of the first, and took a Farrell 3-1 offering deep over the wall in left-center. Farrell then plunked Michigan’s next two batters (sophomore Nick Rudden and senior Brock Koman), and junior catcher Jake Fox jumped on a first-pitch fastball doubling to the wall. But, thinking his hit had cleared the bases, Fox advanced to third – which Koman already occupied – and was tagged out.
“A couple of base-running blunders really cost us,” Maloney said.
The Wolverines’ next hitter, Mike Sokol, worked the count to a hitter-friendly 2-1, and Farrell threw the ensuing pitch to the outside half of the plate against the left-hander. The senior drove the ball down the third-base line, but Penn State third baseman Mike Milliron snagged the ball and tagged third, doubling off Koman. Farrell escaped a near-disastrous inning yielding just two runs.
In the top of the second, the Penn State offense provided Farrell with some support, putting four runs on the board.
The Wolverines tied the game at four in the bottom of the third via a Koman sacrifice fly and a Sokol RBI single.
Michigan’s last true offensive threat came in the fourth inning. The Wolverines had loaded the bases with one out, but Farrell calmly squashed a potential rally, striking out Rudden, and getting Koman to ground out to third base.
Farrell’s most impressive work came in the game’s final five innings when he held Michigan hitless.
“He settled into (the game),” Maloney said. “A good pitcher, what they do is they battle back, and they settle into it.”
Penn State prevailed in an exciting series opener on Friday, 6-5, but the Wolverines struck back taking both games in Saturday’s doubleheader. In game one of the double dip, Michigan took a 4-2 lead on back-to-back homeruns from Koman and Fox, and never looked back. In the late afternoon contest, the Wolverines erased an early 4-0 deficit, and won 6-5. Lollio provided Michigan with the games’ eventual winning run, hitting a two-run shot in the bottom of the sixth.