By Josh Holman
Daily Sports Writer
It was the way that the Michigan baseball team wanted to end its weekend at the Winthrop Tournament in Rock Hill, S.C. Behind strong team hitting and some of the most solid pitching of the tournament, the Wolverines (6-7) closed out the Winthrop Eagles, 8-5, yesterday.
Junior pitcher Bobby Garza went 7.1 innings to earn his second win of the season for Michigan. While he allowed five runs, they came off of just five hits, and the performance was certainly a strong one for a team that has shown some shaky pitching thus far.
Junior catcher Jake Fox continued his strong hitting over the tournament, going 2-for-4 yesterday with two runs batted in, capped off by a homerun in the top of the seventh inning. Fox had three homeruns over the weekend and leads the team this year with seven.
Sophomore Chris Burhans also had a big day, going 2-for-4. His double in the top of the fifth inning scored two runs and put Michigan ahead 7-1, enough to keep the Eagles down for good.
The Winthrop game was originally scheduled for Saturday as part of a doubleheader, but rain postponed most of the games scheduled. The tournament schedule was revised, and the championship and consolation games were cancelled yesterday.
“Of course it was disappointing that we couldn’t play a championship game today,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “But we beat two solid Southern schools and that’s a big step forward for this program.”
Saturday’s rainy 10-6 victory over Birmingham-Southern was actually the only game played in Rock Hill that day, but the weather couldn’t dampen the Michigan hitting.
The Wolverines’ four-run ninth inning was key to the win, spurred by Burhan’s infield grounder and followed by sophomore centerfielder Matt Butler’s two-run single. Senior outfielder Gino Lollio tacked on the fourth run on a fielder’s choice.
Sophomore relief pitcher Matt Collins earned the win while allowing the Eagles to tie the game at 6-6 in the sixth inning. But he held the lead in bases loaded situations in the both the seventh and eighth innings.
Michigan’s big hitting actually started in the third inning on an RBI single from senior second baseman Jordan Cantalamessa. Senior third baseman Brock Koman proceeded to clear the bases with a three-run homerun.
Koman finished the game 2-for-5 with three RBIs. Butler also added three RBIs on his 3-for-4 hitting day.
Michigan’s bats were still out for Friday’s matchup against Northern Illinois, but the Huskies also brought a set of their own, prevailing in the 12-8 slugfest.
Fox started off his weekend hot, belting out two solo homeruns on a 2-for-5 day. Senior first baseman Nate Wright joined the party, knocking out two round trippers of his own. Wright also finished 2-for-5 along with 4 RBIs.
“Fox has been hitting the cover off the ball,” Maloney said. “Our entire team has hit well all year. We’re getting some timely hits.”
Northern Illinois took advantage of one unearned run in the first inning and three unearned runs in the fourth. A throwing error in the sixth by Michigan also helped keep the inning alive, and shortstop Joe Macuzza responded with a three-run double.
A solo homerun by right fielder Matt Santaro and a two-run homerun by designated hitter Scott Simon increased the lead to 12-5 and helped shut down the Wolverines for good. Michigan rallied in the ninth on Wright’s second homer of the day, but the deficit proved to be too much.
Despite the opening loss on the weekend, Maloney proved to be very pleased to leave South Carolina with two wins in the Wolverines’ pocket.
“We tied for the tournament championship, we beat two southern schools and we beat Winthrop at their place,” Maloney said. “That’s always good.”