To be “the man,” you’ve got to beat the man,
or so the saying goes. Going into this weekend, the Michigan
baseball team knew that its four-game series with Minnesota was
important in terms of building a winning club in the Big Ten.

Michigan Baseball
Members of the Michigan baseball team observe weekend action at Ray Fisher Stadium. Two games in the four-game set went to extra innings. (WILLA TRACOSAS/Daily)
Michigan Baseball
After a single by second baseman Chris Getz, Michigan outfielder Brad Roblin (9) slides home under Minnesota catcher Gary Dick. Three runs came across on the play to tie the game at eight. (TONY DING/Daily)

“Minnesota has been running this league for the past ten
years,” manager Rich Maloney said. “Psychologically, it
was big for us to play with them because Minnesota has been so good
for so long.”

With its 12-10 victory over the Gophers (2-2 Big Ten , 12-10),
Michigan (2-2 Big Ten, 11-11) gained a split of the four-game
series with the Gophers. Yesterday’s game started rocky for
Michigan with starting pitcher Michael Penn giving up five runs in
the first inning. The defense did not help Penn, though, as a
throwing error advanced Minnesota catcher Jake Elder to third base.
A walk, a single and a double later and the Wolverines were in a
5-0 hole. Penn never got in a groove and was out of the game after
3.1 innings, having given up eight runs.

But down 8-1, Michigan started a characteristic rally to close
the lead to 8-5 in the fourth inning. Using a string of four
singles, Michigan had first baseman Kyle Bohm and third baseman AJ
Scheidt on second and third. A double by catcher Jeff Kunkel and
the Gophers’ lead was just three runs.

“One thing our team has been able to do is battle back,
like the three games we won against Duke earlier this
season,” Maloney said.

Michigan kept the pressure on Minnesota in the fifth, as the
Wolverines used some patented small ball to score three more runs
and tie the game at eight. Shortstop Jeremey Goldshmeding doubled
to start another rally. A walk by Brad Roblin and a bunt single by
Eric Rose — who was five-for-five on the day — loaded
the bases. Second baseman Chris Getz singled, scoring three more
runs for the Wolverines after a throwing error by the Gophers.

“Even when we were losing, we knew we could battle
back,” Maloney said.

After tying the game at 8-8, Michigan relied on solid relief
pitching by Paul Hammond. Hammond, returning from Tommy John
surgery, pitched four innings of relief and gave up just one
run.

“Hammond really gave us a lift since our starting pitching
was struggling,” Maloney said.

Minnesota came back to take a 10-8 lead in the top of the sixth,
but once again Michigan responded with four runs in the bottom of
the sixth. Michigan registered a two-out rally with two walks and
two singles. Right fielder Matt Butler doubled, scoring two runs
that gave Michigan the final lead it needed with Hammond providing
solid pitching.

While Sunday’s game was a shootout, Saturday’s
second game was a pitching duel. However, the weather did not
cooperate and the game had to finish yesterday.

In the bottom of the sixth, Michigan was down one and needed a
runner to start a rally. With a full count, Michigan seemed ready
for a patented rally. But a controversial check-swing call by the
umpire infuriated the usually-calm Maloney.

“That was a big moment in the game, and we just needed a
runner to get going,” Maloney said. “I just thought it
was missed call, but these umpires did a great job in this
weather.”

Minnesota held on to its lead and took the game and a 2-1 lead
in the four-game series.

“They were up 2-1 in the series and 8-1 in the fourth
game, but it was important to battle back,” Maloney said.
“After the victory Sunday, we don’t think they have
anything on us; we respect them, but we are not afraid of
them.”

The Wolverines take on Eastern Michigan this Wednesday at The
Fish.

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