“We’re more of a line-drive doubles team than we are a true power team,” Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney said.
Most of the time, the skipper’s statement holds true, but this past weekend the Wolverines flexed their muscles by smacking five homeruns against Penn State. Michigan utilized the long ball in both of their wins.
In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, the teams were locked in a pitching duel, but in the bottom of the fifth inning Michigan’s power hitters broke a 2-2 tie. Senior third baseman Brock Koman started things off with a homer to left field and junior Jake Fox followed with a monstrous shot to center. This marked the first time that Michigan went back-to-back this season.
“This park normally isn’t conducive to power, but ironically we’ve gotten a lot of days where the wind has been blowing out,” Maloney said. “It usually doesn’t because of the way the field is set, but it’s not a bad way to go if the wind is blowing that way.”
In the second game of the day, two seniors provided the firepower. Senior left fielder Jordan Cantalamessa’s three-run jack cut Penn State’s lead to 4-3 in the third. The Wolverines still found themselves down by one in the sixth when senior center fielder Gino Lollio clobbered the first pitch he saw into the trees past the center-field fence.
“Coming out of the bullpen, every coach teaches every pitcher to throw strikes. With a man on second holding a one-run lead, the last thing he wanted to do was walk me,” Lollio said. “Coach (Maloney) told me to look for the first one, and I jumped all over it.”
Scared of the Fox: Through the first 35 games of the season, Fox only walked eight times. But in the four game series this past weekend, Michigan’s clean-up hitter received six free passes, five of which came in the final two games.
“I had a few good games at the plate in the beginning of the series, so I knew they weren’t going to give me much to hit at the end of the series,” Fox said. “It was frustrating, but I didn’t let it bother me too much because I knew we had a bunch of good hitters behind me.”
In the series finale, Penn State pitcher Jim Farrell intentionally walked Fox in the third inning with a man on third and two outs. Michigan senior Mike Sokol followed the walk with an RBI single.
“Walking me just puts another runner on base and creates another scoring opportunity,” Fox said. “It backfired for them in that situation.”
Fox was tempted to swing at some pitches he normally would not swing at, but he laid off them in the end.
“You have to make sure you swing at pitches you can hit,” Fox said. “There was one pitch when they were intentionally walking me, that I thought I could get to, but we need base runners in these close games, so I let it go.”