COLUMBUS — Some members of the Michigan baseball team collapsed to the infield dirt at Ohio State’s Bill Davis Stadium on Saturday. Others just put their hands atop their heads with expressions that seemed to indicate they had seen this before.
In all three games of the Wolverines’ series against Ohio State (9-6 Big Ten, 19-18 overall), Michigan jumped out to a lead in the first inning. In all three games, the Wolverines let the Buckeyes get right back in it.
After losing Friday’s opener 7-2, Michigan (6-9, 13-28) fought back after falling behind or squandering a lead in both games of Saturday’s double header. They lost both contests — 7-6 in the first, 4-3 in the nightcap.
Both in extra innings.
It was déjà vu.
The defeated expressions on the faces of the players and coaches said it all. It was the look of a team that had victory within its grasp twice in the double header Saturday, only to watch its archrival sprint onto the field in celebration two different times. The sweep was Ohio State’s first over Michigan in 15 years.
“I don’t think many people can say that they’ve lost in extras on walk-off plays like that,” redshirt senior Anthony Toth said. “It’s just heartbreaking because there’s no one that was here today that can question anybody’s heart or passion.”
An infield single was the dagger in the first game Saturday. Sophomore shortstop Derek Dennis made an acrobatic diving grab on a grounder by redshirt senior third baseman Matt Streng, but he had no chance at a throw and the winning run crossed the plate.
Had the hit been a foot more toward Dennis, the inning would have ended.
In the nightcap, just a few inches decided the game. Greg Solomon smashed a double in the 10th inning, just out of the reach of sophomore center fielder Patrick Biondi. Biondi managed to knock the ball down, but was inches away from a spectacular catch.
The next batter grounded to Dennis, who threw to third instead of getting the out at first. The throw was wide of junior third baseman John Lorenz, and Solomon came around for the Buckeyes’ second consecutive walk-off.
“I thought Derek Dennis played a marvelous shortstop,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “It’s unfortunate he was playing to win, tried to make a play. My instinct, and I’m a shortstop, was the same instinct that he had.”
But Michigan had plenty of opportunities to win. After surrendering a one-run lead in the eighth inning of the first game Saturday, the Wolverines capitalized on two of Ohio State’s six errors and went ahead 6-3 in the ninth behind junior left fielder Coley Crank’s two-run homerun.
They gave all three runs back the next half inning.
After the deflating loss, Michigan was quiet for much of the nightcap but came back from a two-run deficit in the eighth to tie the game at three apiece.
The Wolverines looked like they would do what the Buckeyes did to them earlier that day: steal one they should have lost.
Michigan had all the momentum. Freshman right fielder Michael O’Neill made a game-saving play when he threw out redshirt Buckeye right fielder Brian DeLucia at home plate in the eighth inning.
In the end, none of it was enough.
“It hurts real bad if you’re a Michigan man,” Maloney said. “It hurts to lose period, and it hurts to lose three games to your rival. On top of it, losing the way that we lost.”
Freshman first baseman Josh Dezse paced the Buckeyes the whole series. His three-run homerun in the first inning in Friday’s 7-2 Ohio State victory was the difference in the game. He went 6-for-10 on the series with six RBI, and Michigan intentionally walked him twice.
On the mound, Dezse also struck out every batter he faced. He pitched an inning on Friday and recorded the win in one inning of work in Saturday’s first game.
“He’s killing the ball,” O’Neill said of Dezse, his high-school teammate and friend. “That’s the best I’ve ever seen him play.”
Just don’t expect O’Neill to take much solace in the fact that his friend is the one celebrating a series victory that could have easily gone to the Wolverines.
“It’s going to be a long bus ride home,” O’Neill said. “When you lose two games in extra innings, when you’re one hit away, one play away from taking the series, and then you just got swept … it sucks.”