The Michigan baseball team was looking to avenge its previous loss to Eastern Michigan on Wednesday, but again, it fell short.
Three weeks ago, the Wolverines had a healthy roster, but dropped a 12-2 contest to the Eagles. So with the now-handicapped team, it was almost predictable that Michigan wouldn’t be able to pull themselves out of an early deficit.
Eastern Michigan scored two runs in the first inning on a throwing error and a wild pitch — a recurring theme for the Wolverines in their 7-2 loss.
“They struggled,” said Michigan coach Rich Maloney. “Basically, we gave them the game.”
The Wolverines answered in the bottom of the first inning — junior center fielder Patrick Biondi singled through the right side before sophomore first baseman Brett Winger batted him in and reached on a fielder’s choice. But Michigan posted goose eggs on the board for the next six innings.
With frequent pitching changes and an inexperienced catcher, the Wolverines couldn’t find rhythm. Redshirt sophomore catcher Zach Johnson made his second start of the season behind the plate, and a passed ball allowed the Eagles to tally another run in the fourth inning.
“Normally, we are able to calm the storm better than we did today,” Maloney said. “There were too many freebies and that’s unacceptable.”
Michigan’s pitching staff was divided. The first three hurlers — freshman left-hander Trent Szkutnik, senior right-hander Kevin Vangheluwe and freshman right-hander James Bourque — pitched only one inning apiece before Maloney yanked them from the mound, giving up a combined seven runs, seven hits and six walks.
The last three relievers — redshirt sophomore left-hander Logan McAnallen, sophomore right-hander Alex Lakatos and freshman right-hander Matt Ogden — kept the Eagles scoreless in the final five innings and allowed just two hits and two walks.
Though the defense saw its ups and downs, the lack of reliable hitters added to Michigan’s woes.
In their last meeting, freshman left fielder Will Drake went 2-for-4 and drove in a pair of runs. But a recent quadricep injury left him unavailable to produce the same results.
Drake and sophomore right fielder Michael O’Neill, who carried the team with consistent contact, remained inactive. Their recovery timeline is still uncertain, and without them the lineup looks empty.
Eastern Michigan was also shorthanded — center fielder Brent Orhman, batting a .357, was absent from the lineup. Nevertheless, the Eagles still repeated a win.
Maloney has been forced to call on the players with little experience, and he’s been left with little options to choose from.
“You give guys opportunities,” Maloney said. “You’re hoping at that point someone steps up and answers the bell.”
Maloney had to experiment with the defensive positions and started senior Coley Crank in left field, where he didn’t look as comfortable as he does behind the plate.
Maloney also moved redshirt sophomore John DiLaura from his usual post at second base to designated hitter. Despite a mid-season-long slump and sinking batting average, DiLaura has grown consistent as of late — he’s batting a .325 and went 2-for-4 on Wednesday.
Though the outfield has recently seen a handful of different players, Biondi remains one of the few solid assets in the lineup.
“I feel good,” Biondi said. “I got a couple hits today — one of them was pretty cheap.”
Though Biondi used to be part of the triple threat at the top of the batting order, without O’Neill and Drake, the tag team has been whittled down to the lone leadoff hitter.
Against Easter Michigan, Biondi notched two hits, two runs and a walk. But there were few others that added to the team’s efforts.
“It was a disappointing performance overall,” Biondi said. “We were really sloppy.”