It was over — Michigan had the game in the bag. The ball
was floating through the air and the Wolverines were going to put
the winning run across. It happened twice during yesterday’s
game, but when all was said and done, the Wolverines found
themselves at the short end of a 9-8 contest with Illinois.
In the bottom of the 11th, Michigan needed a run to tie the
game. With replacement catcher Matt Rademacher in scoring position
and one out, Brad Roblin dropped a single into right-centerfield.
It should have scored Rademacher, but when he tried to stop
halfway, he fell on his back. He made it to third despite the fall,
but was stranded.
“I feel really bad that we couldn’t get it done
there,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said.
Michigan had a chance to put Illinois away earlier in the
extra-inning affair. With the bases full in the 10th, outfielder
Matt Butler hit a fly ball that had sacrifice fly written all over
it. Leif Mahler broke for home and Illinois outfielder Ryan
Rogowski fired a ball to the first base side of home plate. The
catcher, Chris Robinson, reached across and put the tag down on
“It (was) very frustrating,” Maloney said.
“Especially on a bang-bang play.”
Mahler got the starting nod at shortstop after Jeremy
Goldschmeding went down with an ankle injury during warm-ups. It
was just his third start of the year, and he turned in a good
showing. The freshman walked twice and reached on an error that
resulted from a hard hit ball up the middle. In the fourth, Mahler
flashed the leather when he dove and snagged a Robinson line
“It got everybody going. Obviously with a backup-type guy
you have to see what he’s got,” Mahler said. “It
gave me more confidence the rest of the game.”
The Wolverines seemed to have Illinois’ number on the
basepaths. Catcher Jeff Kunkel, who started every game during the
weekend, threw out two consecutive runners on pitchouts.
“A couple times there I looked like a genius,”
Maloney said. “And then other times you want to hide your
head in the dugout.”
Control problems plagued Wolverine pitchers all of Sunday. Bobby
Garza — who started for Michigan — Phil Tognetti, Ali
Husain, Andrew Hess and Dan Lentz each walked at least one batter
apiece and combined for three hit batsmen. Mike McCormick was the
only Wolverine without a walk as he pitched one and two-thirds
innings of work. But he suffered the loss.
“I was disappointed today with the pitching,”
Maloney said. “But Mike McCormick did a decent job and Dan
Lentz did a good job.”
Michigan could consider itself lucky to have a chance in extra
innings. First baseman Kyle Bohm, who drilled two home runs during
Saturday’s 5-4 twilight game loss, stepped into the box
during the eighth and down by two runs. Maloney flashed the signs
to the three runners on base and then looked in at his hitter at
Maloney felt “a lot of confidence” as his best
hitter stared back at him.
Bohm delivered a sharp single that drove in the two runs needed
to tie the game at eight.
But Illinois took the lead for the good in the top of the
eleventh when Ted Rowe scored from third after a ball popped
between Rademacher’s legs. By the time he got to the ball,
the damage was done.
The loss marked the second series split in three weeks of Big
Ten play for Michigan. With Jim Brauer’s fastball touching 91
miles per hour, the Wolverines took Friday’s game 6-3.
Derek Feldkamp turned in his second straight complete game,
earning the win in Saturday’s early 5-2 contest.
“He kept the ball down and got a lot of ground
balls,” pitching coach John Lowery said.
The Wolverines are tied for second place in the Big Ten heading
into next weeks matchup in Columbus against Ohio State, who sits
atop the standings with an 8-4 record.