With one swing of the bat, sophomore designated hitter John DiLaura lifted the spirits of the Michigan baseball team and gave the Wolverines a reason to jump for joy for the first time in more than a week.

DiLaura, who went 1-for-5 at the plate, singled home the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Michigan a 5-4 victory against Northwestern (5-10 Big Ten, 13-23 overall) on Sunday, snapping a five-game losing streak. The Wolverines (4-8, 17-24) lost the first two games of the series, 6-5 and 8-5, respectively.

“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit,” DiLaura said. “I knew they were going to come at me with fastballs, like they did all weekend, so I was just trying to barrel one up.”

With one out in the frame, DiLaura lined a 3-2 pitch off Northwestern reliever Kyle Ruchim to center field. As freshman shortstop Dylan Delaney rounded third base, it appeared as if there would be a close play at home plate. But an errant throw by Wildcat center-fielder Cody Stevens allowed Delaney to score easily, setting off a frenzied celebration.

As soon as Delaney scored, the Wolverines sprinted out of the dugout towards first base to mob DiLaura.

“The key to this game was grit,” said Michigan coach Rich Maloney. “A lot of people would count you out for dead, but they found a way to fight back and keep battling.”

Following a tough first couple of innings, freshman left-hander Trent Szkutnik bounced back to have a solid outing. After giving up solo home runs to Northwestern’s shortstop Kyle Ruchim and left fielder Jack Havey in the second and third frames, Szkutnik responded by striking out five batters in the next three innings.

“In the beginning, it was a little rough,” Szuktnik said. “I had a hard time locating my off-speed pitches. But in the dugout, the coaches were giving me tips (because) my mechanics were off. In the fourth inning, I was able to settle in and throw strikes and get a couple of strikeouts.”

The left-hander was yanked in favor of freshman right-hander James Bourque in the seventh inning after allowing the first two batters of the frame to reach base. In six innings of work, Szkutnik gave up three earned runs, four hits and two walks while striking out eight batters.

“(Szkutnik) gave us a quality start today,” Maloney said.

Sophomore first baseman Brett Winger, who went 8-for-14 at the plate in the three-game series, smacked his third home run of the season over the left field fence to give Michigan a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the third inning — one of the few times the Wolverines held a lead during the weekend.

In the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday, the Wolverines got a stellar effort on the mound from fifth-year senior Brandon Sinnery. The right-hander pitched eight strong innings, allowing three runs — one earned — and five hits while striking out eight batters.

But Sinnery’s effort was wasted by sloppy fielding and a struggling offense. Michigan committed three errors — which accounted for three unearned runs — and left 12 men on base.

“Brandon pitched a really good game and it’s too bad that we fell a little bit short,” Maloney said on Sunday. “We didn’t play good defense behind him and it hurt us.”

The Wolverines did manage to make a comeback and tie the game at three in the bottom of the ninth inning. Freshman right-hander Matt Ogden allowed three runs in the top of the eleventh inning, and Michigan’s rally fell short as it scored two runs in the bottom of the frame and fell, 6-5.

In the second game of the doubleheader, the Wolverines were again doomed by poor fielding and hitting. Michigan committed three more errors, which led to four unearned runs. Though they did manage 15 hits, the Wolverines left 13 men on base in the 8-5 defeat.

Though Michigan struggled all weekend, it will carry the momentum of a victory when the team hosts Indiana next weekend.

“It’s good to end the weekend on a high note and hopefully we can carry this into the Indiana series next week,” DiLaura said.

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