After walking to the plate to the tune of Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks,” junior Derek VanBuskirk hit a grand slam on the first pitch he faced.
His shot to right-center field set the tone for a dominating first inning and foreshadowed an equally successful final inning as Michigan’s big bats beat Central Michigan yesterday 13-3 at The Fish.
The Wolverines’ two six-run innings helped rout the Chippewas and continued the Maize and Blue’s trend of games featuring both explosive hits and rain delays.
Michigan (16-6) has struggled with slow starts this season, relying on a big inning later in the game. But against Central Michigan (15-12), the Wolverines had their impressive at-bats early.
Their six-run first inning began with seven straight balls and forced three pitching changes.
But between the first and eighth innings, the Wolverines had just one run and one extra-base hit. Michigan’s opportunity for another early run was lost when junior Nate Recknagel was tagged out at home plate in the fourth inning while attempting to score on an Adam Abraham ground ball to right center. The only other time the Wolverines had a runner in scoring position before the eighth inning was in the sixth, when they failed to score with a runner on third and no outs.
“We’re very potent, and at any moment, we can score a lot of runs,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “We just have to be patient and do what we can do. We missed an opportunity . and with those things, we’ve got to do a better job. Outside of that, I felt like we were in control of the game.”
Freshman Eric Katzman had five strikeouts in his second mid-week start. Closer Ben Jenzen, pitched outside of his traditional spot and worked three innings of relief. Maloney said the shift would help Jenzen work more innings during the week.
“I’ll take innings, no matter when they come,” Jenzen said. “I haven’t pitched a lot of innings during games, and coach came up to me today and said, ‘If we need you in the third or fourth would you go?’ and I said yes. I’ll do whatever it takes to help my team.”
After Central Michigan closed the deficit to four runs in the top of the seventh inning, a rain delay halted the game with two runners on base and two outs.
Jenzen walked the first Chippewa batter he faced after the game resumed, loading the bases with the tying run at the plate, but ended the scoring threat with a strikeout.
The delay was Michigan’s fourth in two weeks, following last Tuesday’s home game and two delays against Northwestern last weekend.
“It’s frustrating, being in a rain delay as much as we’ve been, but it’s Michigan and we understand it’s going to happen here,” Abraham said. “It wears on you a little when the game’s getting over and we’re getting to the end and we’re winning, and it kind of sucks that you have to wait a little longer, but we’ve been playing well out of rain delays.”
With two outs in the eighth inning, it looked as if Michigan’s bats had cooled. But with the bases loaded, Chippewa outfielders dropped consecutive fly balls, allowing four Wolverines to score. On the heels of the two botched plays, Abraham and junior Doug Pickens hit doubles that solidified Michigan’s second big inning and gave the Wolverines a runaway victory.
“Early on, we were energetic, but when you come out with six runs, its tough to stay in the game sometimes,” Abraham said. “I think in the middle innings, we lost a little of that concentration, but we picked it up and took care of business at the end of the day.”