STATE COLLEGE – Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney never talked to his team about exacting revenge on Penn State this weekend, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t on his mind.
Last year, the Nittany Lions were the only Big Ten team to win a regular-season series against Michigan. They eliminated the host Wolverines from the 2007 Big Ten tournament, too.
But after winning three of four games at Penn State this weekend, Maloney wasn’t afraid to show his relief.
“It was sure nice to redeem ourselves from the embarrassment that they gave to us last year,” he said. “I mean they whipped us last year.”
Michigan won the first three games of the series, outscoring Penn State 10-5, but the Nittany Lions dominated the final game, winning 10-1. Before the series began, Michigan had allowed just over five runs per game on the season.
On Sunday, the Wolverines let nine across the plate by the end of the fifth inning.
Freshman pitcher Travis Smith was taken out after allowing three scores in the opening frame, and was the first of five pitchers Michigan used to finish the game.
“We just gave them life by giving them freebies and it gave them some momentum,” Maloney said.
In Saturday’s first game, the Wolverines dodged an early bases-loaded situation in the first inning. Junior pitcher Chris Fetter saved the inning and struck out the next batter for the third out. After that, Michigan took control of the contest and allowed just four hits and no scores.
“I just started off with some command issues,” Fetter said. “But I found out where the umpire wanted to call it and started throwing it there, and got them to get some groundouts.”
Michigan senior Nate Recknagel, who leads the team with a .389 batting average and 27 RBIs, played a major role in the Wolverines’ second victory on Saturday. He scored half of Michigan’s six runs, including a home run, in three at bats. Recknagel also sent one over the fence Friday and tallied his first triple of the season.
“I’m just seeing the ball really well right now,” he said. “I’ve had a couple games where I had some bad approaches at the plate and a lot of it was because I was swinging at bad pitches, but recently I’ve been narrowing my focus on swinging on good pitches, getting deep in the count and swinging at good pitches.”
Despite avenging last year’s series loss to Penn State and tallying a 7-1 Big Ten record, Maloney knows there’s plenty to improve.
“These guys know we can play better,” he said. “As good as it is that we’re winning, the beauty is I don’t think they’re satisfied and that’s good.”