MINNEAPOLIS — Last Wednesday against Eastern Michigan, the Michigan baseball team amassed 18 runs on 21 hits. In its first Big Ten series of the year against Minnesota this weekend, Michigan managed just five runs on 17 hits in the first three games.
The Wolverines lost all three contests by scores of 1-0, 3-2 and 6-3, respectively.
While each game’s outcome could arguably be blamed on a defensive miscue, the Michigan offense struggled to find its rhythm.
“We’ve pitched pretty well,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “We’ve played pretty good defense, but we just haven’t hit.”
The Wolverines were riding a 10-game winning streak entering this weekend’s series, and they were averaging just over nine runs per game in that span. The roster boasted seven starters who were batting over .300 — four of whom were hitting over .400.
But the potent Michigan lineup went stagnant against the Gophers, batting .200 as a team in the three-game stretch.
It took 20 innings before Michigan even established its first lead of the series. In the third inning of Game 3, junior Chris Getz drilled an RBI single to rightfield, giving the Wolverines a 1-0 lead. But with one out and two men aboard, the Wolverines failed to add insurance, and Minnesota was able to come right back in the bottom half of that inning to tie it up.
“We’ve missed a lot of situations to move guys over,” pitcher Michael Penn said. “We just haven’t done the little things well this weekend.”
But the Wolverines showed some signs of life when sophomore Eric Rose laid down a two-run bunt in the fourth inning of the same game. The Michigan dugout erupted as junior Jeff Kunkel and freshman Derek VanBuskirk crossed the plate, giving the Wolverines a 3-1 advantage.
“We got some momentum when Rose had that bunt,” Maloney said. “VanBuskirk scores, and we’re all excited. For once we had momentum, something we haven’t had the whole weekend. For once, we had something to cheer about.”
In the same inning, sophomore Brad Roblin was driven off the field by an ambulance after he was beaned in the head by Gopher hurler Josh Oslin the previous inning. The medical assistance stalled the game for about 15 minutes, suppressing some of the Michigan momentum.
But, adding insult to injury, the elation was short-lived. The Gophers were able to even the score again in the bottom half of the inning.
“Even with the ambulance coming and delaying the game, we didn’t shut them down that next inning,” Maloney said. “That’s what you need to do. That was critical in my opinion.”
Roblin received stitches on his forehead and did not play the fourth and final game yesterday. He is currently listed as day-to-day.
Aside from execution and momentum, Maloney offered another valid reason for Michigan’s offensive woes.
“There’s no question that this whole series we’ve been (facing a lot of) 0-2 counts,” Maloney said.
The Wolverines faced 25 0-2 counts in the first three games, while the Gophers dealt with only 13.