“This obviously isn’t what we wanted to do here. It just didn’t work out.” — Sophomore Leif Mahler

CHAMPAIGN — Too little, too late.

Michigan knew that feeling all too well during last Friday’s game against the Boilermakers.

Despite coming back from a six-run deficit with a four-run eighth inning in Friday’s game, the No. 4 seeded Wolverines dropped their season finale to No. 2 Purdue, 9-7, in the Big Ten Tournament.

“The team battled like they have all year long,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t get over the hump and pull it out. It would have been a tremendous win.”

It looked as though the Wolverines (17-12 Big Ten, 41-17 overall) were going to be blown out after the top half of the seventh when the Boilermakers (17-11, 27-30) tacked on three more runs to extend their lead to 7-1. In that inning, junior A.J. Scheidt committed a throwing error, allowing the first run to cross the plate. The error was the second committed by Michigan in the game and its seventh in three games.

But the Wolverines would not go down without a fight — a competitive toughness that has been present in the team all year.

After Scheidt and senior Matt Butler led off the eighth inning with back-to-back singles, junior Mike Schmidt worked a walk from Purdue pitcher Trae Dauby to load the bases. Mahler then drove a frozen rope into the right-centerfield gap, scoring both Butler and Scheidt while moving Schmidt over to third base.

Sophomore Eric Rose popped out to the first baseman on a failed bunt attempt, but the next batter — junior Chris Getz — was able to bring Schmidt home from third base with a sacrifice fly to centerfield.

Sophomore Brad Roblin — who had already struck out twice — tied the game with a triple that landed just in front of the diving John Phegley of Purdue and rolled back all the way to the wall. Mahler was able to score from second base.

“That (inning) really defines what this team has been about all season,” Mahler said. “We have a lot of fighters on this team. There is a lot of heart on this team, and we showed that in this last game here.”

But the Wolverines’ momentum came to a screeching hault in the ninth inning.

Sophomore Brad Seddon had pitched 1.2 innings without giving up a hit or a run. Then Purdue’s lead-off hitter Mitch Hilligross ruined Seddon’s perfect performance when he popped up a pitch toward the right-field wall.

The heavy winds kept pushing the ball toward the outfield fence, and Butler was poised to steal a home run away from Hilligross. As Butler jumped, the ball bounced off the glove and went over the fence to give Purdue a one-run lead.

Boilermaker centerfielder Mike Coles followed up with a homer over the left-field fence that had no chance of being caught. The Wolverines could not overcome the two-run deficit.

Michigan’s first game of the tournament was an early indication that the competition would be fierce.

Against No. 5 Ohio State, the Wolverines fell, 7-3, in a heart-breaking 13-inning pitchers’ duel. Senior Jim Brauer took the hill for Michigan and pitched 10 innings — allowing only five hits and two walks and striking out six batters while giving up two unearned runs.

In the bottom of the 12th inning Michigan had its best opportunity to win the ballgame. Trailing 3-2, freshman Doug Pickens hit a one-out double down the leftfield line. Getz followed with another double — scoring Pickens — and then advanced to third base on a poor throw from the leftfielder. Ohio State intentionally walked Rose and senior Kyle Bohm to load the bases for Butler — Michigan’s biggest clutch hitter.

But the unusual move worked for the Buckeyes. Butler hit a screaming grounder to Ohio State first baseman Paul Farinacci, who picked it up cleanly and fired it to his catcher Eric Fryer. Then Fryer gunned the ball back to his first baseman to complete the unlikely 3-2-3 double play. The Buckeyes scored four runs in the 13th inning thanks to a three-run home run from Farinacci off senior Derek Feldkamp.

“That was an outstanding baseball game,” Ohio State coach Bob Todd said. “If you are a baseball fan, you love that game.”

Maloney agreed: “It was a great college baseball game. Someone had to come out on the short end of the stick; unfortunately it was us.”

Michigan’s lone win of the tournament came against Iowa on Thursday afternoon. The Wolverines eliminated the Hawkeyes from the tournament with an 8-6 victory. Butler and Bohm each had two hits and drove in two runs for Michigan.

Despite failing to secure the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, Michigan found out yesterday that it received an at-large bid into the 64-team field.

The Wolverines will be traveling to the Atlanta, Georgia Regional — along with No. 1 Georgia Tech, No. 4 Furman and No. 2 South Carolina. Their first game will be against South Carolina on Friday at 12 p.m.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.