It looked like the Michigan baseball team’s pitching was finally starting to come together.
But when given the chance to sweep Coastal Carolina, the Wolverines couldn’t come through.
Michigan won three of four games this weekend at the Centrex Homes Invite in Conway, S.C. The Wolverines won their first three games, beating Presbyterian, 5-2, Ball State, 7-5, and won the first game against host Coastal Carolina, 4-1, before losing on Sunday 11-9.
Michigan needed a good weekend after losing all but one contest in its previous outing at the Keith LeClair Classic. Although Michigan coach Rich Maloney hoped for a sweep, he will have to settle for the three wins and an 8-6 record heading into the home opener Wednesday.
“We battled back from a deficit against a very good team,” Maloney said. “We had a chance to sweep them, it was there to be had.”
Sunday’s loss against the Chanticleers was a back-and-forth affair. Michigan fell behind 6-3 after three innings, but scored two more in the fourth and allowed another Coastal Carolina run before making a move.
The Wolverines finally took the lead with a four-run fifth inning. Michigan third baseman Adam Abraham started off the scoring with a solo homerun. And after left fielder Derek VanBuskirk and first baseman Mike Dufek walked, it set the stage for right fielder Alan Oaks.
Oaks responded by nailing a three-run homerun to give the Wolverines a 9-8 lead.
The sophomore led the Michigan offense in the game with three hits, two home runs and five RBI. He finished the weekend with five hits.
The Wolverines held their lead behind the pitching of Mike Wilson for two innings, but couldn’t add to it. Coastal Carolina scored the final three runs of the game to clinch the win.
“Today, we just didn’t get it done,” Maloney said. “But we still battled and had a chance to win it. We had a few missed opportunities at the end that cost us.”
The Wolverines shored up their pitching through the first three games of the series when pitchers Zach Putnam and Travis Smith picked up their first wins of the season. Smith pitched seven strong innings in the win over Presbyterian in what was also his first career win.
In the first game against Coastal Carolina, Putnam struck out 10 batters, snapping a 10-game winning streak for the Chanticleers.
Michigan’s win over Ball State Saturday was a landmark one for Maloney. He coached the Cardinals before coming to Michigan.
“It was strange (coaching against Ball State),” Maloney said. “Ball State will always have a special place in my heart. It was certainly pleasing to win against them. I was just glad I didn’t have any players of mine still there.”
Recknagel started his strong weekend against the Cardinals.
After taking a 2-1 lead over Ball State in the bottom of the first inning, he hit a two-run homerun to extend the lead to 4-2. Ball State simply couldn’t muster the offense to match Michigan, scoring just one run before Recknagel added a two-run double to the stat sheet.
Although the pitching was solid in the first three games, the loss to Coastal Carolina was disconcerting. The 11 runs given up by the Wolverines were the third highest total this season. There is reason for optimism, though. The Wolverines started last season in a similar manner, finishing 6-6 before their home opener. For now, Maloney is just happy things are starting to look better.
“The weekend was a success.” Maloney said. “We won the tournament with more wins than the other teams, and we played better baseball.”
Michigan starts play at the newly-renovated Ray Fisher Stadium at the Wilpon Baseball and Softball Complex Wednesday against Oakland.