The Michigan baseball team flew back to a cold and blustery Michigan on Sunday after spending spring break in Florida. The gray Michigan weather matched the players’ moods.

Michigan ended its trip at the Snowbird Invitational, where the team competed against Ohio State, Chicago State and had two games against Xavier. The only triumph for the Wolverines (6-6 overall) was against the Cougars.

“It was a difficult weekend for us,” said Michigan coach Rich Maloney. “We obviously didn’t get the job done the way we’d like to.”

The weekend started off with the game against the Buckeyes. At the team Meet and Greet session on Feb. 15, the Wolverines said they were confident they would beat Ohio State. This confidence was met in the eighth inning on Friday night, when sophomore right fielder Michael O’Neill hit a two-run home run, tying the game at four runs apiece.

“Michael is playing fantastic,” Maloney said. “He is simply outstanding.”

Things went downhill, though, after O’Neill’s blast.

Following a few errors, walks, rotating pitchers, and three unearned runs given up by sophomore right-hander Jake Engels in the top of the ninth inning, Ohio State (6-4) pulled ahead to win, 9-4.

“Anytime that you lose to Ohio State, it hurts a little bit,” O’Neill said. “But you can’t dwell on it and let it ruin your weekend, you just gotta keep riding through the season. We’ve only played 12 games, so we still have at least 44 more. We can’t sit there and complain about one loss.”

The Wolverines channeled their frustration toward winning the next morning’s game against Chicago State. The team’s determination was evident — they topped the cougars, 17-8.

“We did what we needed to do,” O’Neill said. “We came out and we won the game. I think everybody’s head was in the right place.”

The fifth inning sealed the deal for Michigan. After the Cougars (0-4) scored two runs in the third, the Wolverines came back and scored eight runs in the fifth. Sophomore first baseman Brett Winger and senior catcher Coley Crank knocked back-to-back home runs, the first of Crank’s two homers in the game.

“We beat a team that I feel like we should have beaten that day,” said junior right-hander Ben Ballantine.

O’Neill had one of his best games statistically this season, going 3-for-5 with a home run, four RBIs and four runs.

Freshman left fielder Will Drake also had a productive game and is proving to be a serious asset to the team. He was a perfect 6-for-6, driving in three runs and scoring four.

The Chicago State game was only half of the day’s battle — Michigan also competed against Xavier that afternoon.

“It’s nice to pick up a win in the first game of a double header, because then you have a chance to sweep the day,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill also said that the big win against Chicago State boosted Michigan’s confidence going into its first game against the Musketeers.

But the afternoon did not end the way the Wolverines hoped. Xavier won, 7-4.

“We kind of just handed them the game,” O’Neill said. “We didn’t really play that good of baseball, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.”

This game was not as much of a nail-biter as the Ohio State game the night before. The Musketeers essentially won by the fourth inning. Michigan responded to Xavier’s four-run second inning with three runs in the bottom-half of the second, but the Musketeers came through with three more in the third.

Michigan ended the scoring in the fifth inning with a run by junior Patrick Biondi.

O’Neill and Maloney both agreed that there were no excuses for the loss.

“Xavier had to play a game before they played us too, so we can’t use the excuse that we had to play two and they had to play one,” O’Neill said. “They also played in the same weather we did.”

Sunday morning gave the Wolverines an opportunity at redemption with another game against Xavier. The players felt like the team morale was good going in Sunday morning.

“Personally, I never go into a start not feeling good about it,” Ballantine said. “Everyone came to the park today ready to win and expecting to win.”

Nothing but disappointment ensued. The Musketeers (3-7) won once again, with a final score of 5-3.

“Coming into the game, I thought we had a lot of energy,” Ballantine said. “Everyone was loud, and there was a lot of good energy in the dugout.”

Ballantine started a game for the first time this week and was Sunday’s star player. He allowed eight hits but just three runs in 7.2 innings of work. He also finished with five strikeouts and two walks.

Michigan held a 3-1 lead after the sixth inning, but the Musketeers tied the game in the eighth after a dropped fly ball. Xavier won with two runs in the ninth.

“It was a tight game all the way until those last two innings,” Ballantine said. “In the ninth inning, things got a little unfortunate. They got two runs and we weren’t able to match them.”

Returning to Ann Arbor with three losses may have brought the blahs for the Wolverines, but they’re looking ahead to bright futures. The Wolverines will play against LSU and Notre Dame this weekend in sunny Baton Rouge, La.

“As far as momentum goes, I feel like a lot of the games are just one play away,” Ballantine said. “I think we’re right there. I think we’ve got it. We’ll be just fine.”

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