A marquee win? In early March?
The Michigan baseball team not only made the long trip to Mississippi to play in the
Cadence Bank Classic this weekend, but they also beat highly touted Mississippi State 4-3 on Sunday.
Sophomore Zach Putnam struck out six in his second win of the season, a game Michigan coach Rich Maloney referred to as a signature victory.
“Going on the road and beating a storied program like MSU with legendary coach Ron Polk is huge for our program and it’s a big step for us,” Maloney said.
Sophomore Adam Abraham shared his coach’s sentiment.
“The atmosphere is one of the best at the country; it was loud and lots of fun,” Abraham
said. “It really prepares you for regionals by going down south against an SEC school and
playing a team at their own place.”
The Wolverines (5-2) started off strong against the Bulldogs (5-1). In the second inning, Doug Pickens hit a two-run homer over the right field wall.
Later in the inning, second-basemen Anthony Toth singled home right-fielder Brad Roblin in his first career at-bat to extend the Wolverine lead to three runs.
“I wasn’t surprised, he’s a confident kid,” Roblin said of Toth. “It was great that he put us up 3-0. And from a defensive standpoint, he’s not a freshman, he’s as good as we have.” Mississippi State finally made it onto the scoreboard in the sixth.
Bulldogs center fielder Mark Goforth scored on a fielder’s choice after hitting a
double into leftfield to cut the Wolverines’ lead to two.
But it wasn’t long until hot-hitting junior Nate Recknagel stepped to the plate, looking to give Michigan some insurance. Little did he know that his ensuing solo blast would be the difference-maker in the team’s one-run win.
“It gave us a huge feeling of momentum,” Roblin said. “It really gives us a lift to have
his bat in the lineup. It’s become an expected thing. He’s our best hitter and we expect
that from him.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Mississippi State rallied for two runs before Ben Jenzen got a Bulldog batter to fly out with runners on the corners. With a 1-2-3 ninth, Jenzen earned his second save of the season, nailing down the win for Putnam.
“This game sets the tempo for the rest of the year,” senior pitcher Andrew Hess said. “It shows us we belong with the best of the best. We have to remember how we played
The Wolverines also split two games against perennial powerhouse Troy during the weekend.
With its victories over Mississippi State and Troy, the team has gained more than just two wins.
It gained confidence.
“We proved to ourselves that we can play with some of the better teams in the country,” Abraham said. “Like Troy, they will win 45 games this year.”
Maloney hopes this type of success and increased confidence will continue when the
Wolverines face even tougher competition in the upcoming weeks.
“I told the kids that we have three weekends of opportunity with tournaments,” Maloney said. “Next week we have another chance.”