In America’s pastime, a game consists of nine three-out innings. Although each frame is completely equal in design, often times one inning stands out among the others as “the Big Inning.” After defeating Butler in the opener to the Butler Classic on Friday, the Michigan nine felt the wrath of “the Big Inning” on consecutive days.
“We put ourselves in a position to win, but we give up that big inning,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “Until we quit doing that, we’re going to continue to struggle.”
On Saturday, Wolverine junior Michael Penn pitched seven brilliant innings of baseball. Having held Western Michigan to no runs on three hits, Penn looked to be in cruise control entering the eighth inning – but the tide quickly turned.
The Broncos took advantage of an opening-inning error by Michigan first baseman Nate Wright, and rallied to erase Michigan’s 2-0 advantage. Penn – who seemed to lose gas after the Wright miscue – could only record one out in the inning before being replaced by Ali Husain and was charged with three runs, two of which were unearned. Western Michigan put three insurance runs on the board in the ninth and prevailed 6-2.
Twenty-four hours after Michigan’s eighth-inning demise, the Wolverines suffered a similar fate, but this time a little earlier in the game. Junior Bobby Garza held Cenral Michigan to just one run through four innings, but was dodging bullets the entire time. But in the fifth, the Chippewas – who had left eight runners on base – exploded for eight runs, four of which were credited to Garza. The Chippewas won 12-8.
“Our guys like Drew (Taylor) and Michael (Penn) are getting better,” Maloney said. “Unfortunately they’re having to come around in very difficult situations given their youth.”