As the Major Leaguers begin to get into the swing of their season, Big Ten baseball teams can see the end of their year coming quickly. The Wolverines (8-8 Big Ten, 22-18 overall), who entered the weekend in fifth place in the Big Ten, could also see Illinois (10-13, 23-25) nipping at their heels, just two spots behind them. The Illini hardly narrowed the gap, splitting two games over the weekend at Fisher Stadium, but Michigan did not help its own cause after a promising beginning, as it dropped the final two games of the series after two exciting comeback wins.
Michigan had a difficult time at the plate yesterday, managing just one run on four hits in the 5-1 loss. Rich Hill was credited with the loss, despite striking out seven and relinquishing just three runs in seven innings of work.
Saturday”s first game gave thirdbaseman Brock Koman his second chance for heroics in as many games. The sophomore”s grand slam in the bottom of the sixth gave Michigan a 5-4 lead. The home team went on to win 7-5.
The nightcap of Saturday”s doubleheader featured an interesting reunion Michigan pitcher Bobby Wood, a right-hander from Englewood, Colo., took the mound against the Illini, whose cleanup hitter, junior thirdbaseman Luke Simmons, is also from Englewood. The two players, as well as Michigan sophomore Jordan Cantalamessa, led Cherry Creek High School to multiple Colorado state championships.
Simmons was 2-for-3, and scored one run in the 3-2 Illini win.
“I knew how to throw him in high school,” Wood said. “But he”s changed a little bit, so that was kind of tough.”
In the top of the seventh, Simmons was intentionally walked by his former high school teammate.
“Coach came out to talk to me about it and said,”What do you want to do?” Wood said. “And I was like, “I want to throw against this guy, because we have a little rivalry going on.” ”
But the walk was given, and Wood went on to retire the side.
“It”s just fun to see him again,” Simmons said. “Friendships pick back up, and it”s fun to compete against them, too.”
Friday”s game was the most exciting for the home team. Three runs in the bottom of the ninth sent the 6-6 game into an extra frame. In the top of the tenth, senior Nick Alexander allowed four runs in relief. Down 10-6 in the bottom of the tenth, Michigan crawled back. After a Nate Wright strikeout, Gino Lollio walked. Jake Fox was hit by a pitch, advancing Lollio. Blake Rutkowski was walked to load the bases. After a pitching change, Caltalamessa was hit by a pitch, allowing Lollio to score. Singles by Bill LaRosa, Brandon Jominy, Mike Sokol and Brock Koman earned the Wolverines all the runs they would need for an exciting 11-10 comeback win. Koman had also homered in the sixth to drive in two runs.
“A game like that doesn”t come around too often,” Michigan coach Geoff Zahn said.