KALAMAZOO — Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney returned to his alma mater, Western Michigan, where he was named a third team All-American at shortstop and inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.
“This place is a special place for me,” Maloney said. “I had a great experience here, met my wife here — a lot of great memories.”
But his past in Robert J. Bobb Stadium brought vastly different feelings than Tuesday’s lopsided 13-6 defeat, headlined by defensive woes in the final road match of the season.
The Michigan baseball team pitched a long and troublesome first inning that made a comeback nearly impossible.
Junior right-hander Kyle Clark littered the scoreboard, giving up seven runs on six hits. He was yanked from the mound after just two thirds of the first frame, bumping his ERA to 7.30.
Inheriting a runner on first base, freshman left-hander Trent Szkutnik came into the much-needed relief. But his performance was just as problematic, giving up a pair of runs for the Broncos’ 9-0 lead.
“Clark went out there and did a really good job, actually,” Szkutnik said. “That’s the crazy thing about baseball, which is just really funny where he was hitting his spots.”
In his rookie campaign, Szkutnik peaked in the middle of the season, where he threw 11 scoreless innings in a combined three outings. But his delivery went downhill, giving up 25 earned runs in his last 24 innings of work.
He cleaned up his act and retired five Western Michigan batters in a brief stint of production, gearing up on his fastballs and using his changeup. But he started overthrowing and was pulled.
With all the injuries this season, it may be concerning that Szkutnik had ice wrapped around his arm after the game. But he said there was no pain and no worries.
“I never ice my arm,” Szkutnik said. “Ice is for your drinks, not for your arms.”
Redshirt sophomore left-hander Logan McAnallen and freshman right-hander Matt Ogden finished out the matchup, unable to salvage the score.
In his only inning of action, Ogden hurled a three up, three down eighth, but Maloney is saving him for this weekend’s last Big Ten series.
Maloney always said it comes down to the “freebies,” but Michigan only gave up one. In the fourth inning, however, Western Michigan left-hander Mike Moyer started to resemble the Wolverines’ usual midweek pitching staff, giving up walks.
Sophomore right fielder Michael O’Neill singled up the middle before Moyer loaded the bases, walking the designated hitter, senior Coley Crank, and sophomore first baseman Brett Winger. Though they tacked on a triplet of runs, Michigan still trailed by nine.
It was almost surprising that the Broncos bullpen earned the win — the trio claims a high range of ERAs between 6.65 and 7.63.
Despite Western Michigan’s poor defensive effort, giving up more walks and throwing less strikeouts than the Wolverines, they were able to find all the holes in the field. Five players posted a multi-hit game, led by right fielder Jack Scanlon, who went 4-for-5 with two runs and five RBIs.
“They were attacking the ball,” Maloney said. “It was like before you blinked your eye there was boom, boom, boom, boom … six on the board.”
Crank has been a threat in the back end of this season, notching 21 RBIs and eight multi-hit games since the final contest against Michigan State in early April.
But on Tuesday, Crank didn’t knock in a single run — instead, he crossed the plate three times without recording a hit.
The Wolverines came into the game with nothing to lose, but the deficit still left a bruise on the season’s road match finale.
“It stings real bad,” Maloney said. “You knew from the get-go that it was their day. … They played a good game — they beat us.”