Once again, it was too little, too late for the Michigan baseball team.
The Wolverines out-hit and out-pitched Texas Tech for most of Wednesday’s game, but it wasn’t enough to overcome an early deficit, as another late Michigan comeback fell short.
The Wolverines stranded six base runners in the final three innings, allowing the Red Raiders to complete the sweep over Michigan with a 6-4 win. Texas Tech won Tuesday in a lopsided 8-2 affair.
Wednesday’s game got off to a rough start for the Wolverines (6-12 Big Ten, 15-33 overall), when redshirt freshman pitcher Logan McAnallen threw away a toss to first after a leadoff bunt from Jamodrick McGruder. McGruder advanced to second on a passed ball. The following hitter reached on an error and McGruder scored later in the inning when McAnallen pitched a bases-loaded walk.
“We work so hard on the bunt plays,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “Routine bunt plays killed us in this series. (They capitalized on) two in the first game and one to start (Wednesday’s) game off. You just can’t make those kind of mistakes against good teams.”
In the third, a wild pitch from McAnallen allowed another Red Raider (9-12 Big 12, 30-20 overall) to score.
The Wolverines got a run back in the third, but McGruder responded with a two-run homer to end McAnellen’s day. After struggling on Tuesday, McGruder hurt Michigan on Wednesday, scoring all three times he reached base.
Senior pitcher Matt Gerbe came on to relieve McAnallen and surrendered another two runs in the sixth to make it a 6-1 game.
Freshman pitcher Jake Engels replaced Gerbe to begin the seventh and retired all nine hitters he faced, four of which came via strikeouts.
“Jake was outstanding,” Maloney said, shaking his head. “He was outstanding. I told the team, I told him, ‘Honestly, that might’ve been as crisp an outing as I’ve seen from anybody — even pitching against us.’ Boy, he looked outstanding. It was very encouraging.”
Engels’ electric performance sparked the Wolverines offensively, as the bats finally woke up in the seventh. Michigan loaded the bases, but redshirt junior first baseman Gerrett Stephens came on to pinch-hit and grounded into an inning-ending double play.
In the eighth inning, junior designated hitter Coley Crank hit a towering shot off the brick wall in left field for an RBI double, scoring sophomore center fielder Patrick Biondi.
Biondi and freshman right fielder Michael O’Neill — Michigan’s No. 1 and 2 hitters — combined to go 7-for-16 with three runs in the two-game set.
The Red Raiders brought in closer John Neely — considered one of college baseball’s best relivers — to finish the game, but the righty’s perfect 9-0 record was put in serious jeopardy.
Sophomore shortstop Derek Dennis led off the ninth with a single and scored off a single from freshman left fielder Alex Lakatos — his third hit of the night — to make it 6-3 . After back-to-back strikeouts from Neely, O’Neill walked and Biondi singled in Lakatos.
Crank — the Wolverines’ most dangerous hitter — came up, representing the winning run, but grounded to second to end the game.
“It is encouraging to see that we’re not giving up and we’re battling,” Biondi said. “But at the same time, you’d like to see that focus that we take in the last inning and say ‘Alright, this is it,’ from the beginning. Maybe we just have to collectively do a better job at mentally being there. I don’t know, it’s hard to put a finger exactly on it, but maybe our focus has to be a little bit tighter from the beginning.”
Added Maloney: “It was a very winnable game. I’m proud of our guys, they didn’t give up and we hit the ball better than they did. Unfortunately, we gave some freebies away … and they took advantage of them to score six runs on five hits. It’s a shame.”
On Tuesday, Texas Tech made a statement early, knocking around Wolverine redshirt sophomore hurler Bobby Brosnahan for five first-inning runs. The Red Raiders’ pitching staff gave up just five hits and Michigan was never threatened, falling 8-2.
The sweep keeps Texas Tech’s chances at an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament alive.
The Wolverines now travel to Northwestern for a must-win series in order to keep their slim chances at acquiring a bid to the Big Ten Tournament alive. Michigan will look to build on a promising late-game comeback Wednesday.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t get the bats going earlier in the game,” redshirt sophomore third baseman Kevin Krantz said. “Right now, we’re just hoping we can take the offense we had late in the game and bring it into this weekend. Everyone’s excited for this weekend. We have nothing to lose.”