The Michigan baseball team finally got a break.
Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Gino Lollio hit a two-out, two-run home run off the top of the outfield wall, which lifted Michigan to a 4-3 opening day victory over Bowling Green at The Fish.
“I saw it bounce up (off the fence), and I couldn’t see the depth. So I honestly thought it was going to bounce back into the field,” Lollio said. “But when it disappeared behind the wall, I was just ecstatic.”
The win came after a 12-game road trip to start the season, in which the Wolverines won just twice.
“I think any win for us right now is going to help us improve and get our confidence going,” second baseman Jordan Cantalamessa said.
The Falcons were able to get a man on base in the final inning after Jake Fox’s second error of the game at third base. But Fox redeemed himself by starting the game-ending double play.
Tim Leveque started the game for the Wolverines but lasted just four innings, allowing seven hits and two earned runs. Rich Hill, Jim Brauer and Bobby Korecky – each of whom will be in the starting rotation this season – pitched in relief for the Wolverines. The three allowed just two hits and one run, which was unearned. Hill had three strikeouts in two innings of work, and Brauer (1-2) picked up his first win of the season.
Korecky, Michigan’s ace, pitched the ninth inning. He recorded his seventh career save, and his first in almost two seasons.
The relief performances by these starters made a good impression on Michigan interim coach Chris Harrison.
“We made good pitches when we needed to,” Harrison said. “I thought our kids threw the ball pretty well. It’s tough for them to throw knowing they are only going two or three innings (because) they are all starters. But I thought they did well today.”
The scoring started early, as Michigan (3-10) and Bowling Green (6-10) each tallied a run in the second inning. After the Falcons scored on a sacrifice fly, Michigan’s Brandon Roberts led off the bottom of the second inning with a home run to right-center field that caromed off Oosterbaan Field House. Roberts now has a team-high three homers this season.
In the fourth inning, one of Leveque’s pitches got past catcher Jason Wuerfel with a man on third base. Wuerfel had a chance to catch the runner at home plate, but the throw was off line.
A Mike Sokol double with two outs in the fifth inning drove in catcher Alex Coleman, who replaced Wuerfel in the fifth inning, to tie the score at two. Sokol now leads the team, along with Roberts, with 10 RBIs.
Fox committed his first error of the day after he was unable to get a handle on a hard shot to third base. The miscue allowed Bowling Green’s Nick Elrod to score from third, giving the Falcons the lead until Lollio’s homer in the bottom of the frame.
Fox, who played catcher last season, has played at third base for the last three weeks. Harrison wants to keep both Fox and last year’s third baseman Brock Koman in the lineup every day because they are arguably the team’s two best hitters. Koman is currently playing shortstop.
“We are seeing how it works before we get into the Big Ten and trying to settle on a lineup we are going to use,” Harrison said. “We are giving (Fox) a lot of repetitions everyday. Every ball hit to him is probably something new for him.”