Fans may be disappointed this morning when they read the headline, “Burke to Leave Michigan.” But the Michigan baseball team can take a sigh of relief as it learns that its freshman right-hander James Bourque — pronounced “Burke” — will remain in Ann Arbor for at least the rest of this season.

Bourque, not to be confused with Michigan men’s basketball guard Trey Burke, was outstanding in Wednesday’s 7-3 victory over Central Michigan. In just his third start of the season, Bourque held down the rubber for three innings, allowing just two hits and a single run. His performance is just what the inconsistent Wolverine bullpen needed, as it had been desperately searching for a reliable starter to add to its weekday rotation.

“I was a little nervous,” Bourque said. “I haven’t had too many great outings in a row. I just wanted to come out and throw strikes, and I felt like I did that. Luckily we got five (runs) in the first inning, which took a lot of pressure off. It felt pretty good, but yeah I was pretty nervous.”

Other than a home run conceded to Chippewa junior shortstop Jordan Dean in the first inning, it was a solid outing from the freshman, who typically serves as a reliever for Michigan.

In his first appearance for the Wolverines, Bourque earned a save, pitching three innings against Iona in February. The right-hander also recorded his first victory earlier this year in a big win over Notre Dame and recorded another save against IPFW two weeks ago. In his 12.1 innings pitched, the hurler has given up nine hits and seven earned runs. Bourque’s final line against Central Michigan included a trio of strikeouts after facing 13 hitters, culminating in his second win of the season.

“I actually really like starting,” Bourque said. “You get to hang out before and relax. It’s not just a send you down to the bullpen and you’re in the game. It was also nice not having to come in with runners on, because that’s stressful.”

But it was the consistency of the other pitchers that helped Michigan close the game against the Chippewas — something it has struggled to do all season. The Wolverines used the arms of four pitchers after Bourque: senior right-hander Kevin Vangheluwe, junior right-hander Kyle Clark, freshman right-hander Alex Lakatos and freshmen right-hander Matt Ogden.

In Vangheluwe’s 1.2 innings of work on the mound, he gave up four hits and accounted for Central Michigan’s additional two earned runs. When the Chippewas loaded the bases with two outs, Michigan coach Rich Maloney brought in Lakatos, who shut down Central Michigan’s tying run at the plate. Then in the ninth, the Wolverines called on Ogden to close the game and end Michigan’s four-game losing streak.

Though the Wolverines used a total of five pitchers in the win, they should be confident in the exceptional performance of the bullpen. Michigan will need Bourque and the bullpen to continue their momentum if they expect to dig themselves out of their current last-place standing in the Big Ten.

“We believe in James, and we believe in the guys we have,” Maloney said. “We just have to execute better. We knew we were going to pitch a lot of pitchers. … It was a great team effort on the mound.”

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