Going into yesterday”s game at Ohio State, Michigan knew that it would place sixth in the Big Ten and receive the final bid to the conference tournament next week if the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes or if Northwestern lost to Minnesota. Even so, Michigan lost the game 9-2 before 2,162 at Bill Davis Stadium. But Northwestern lost 4-3 to Minnesota later in the day knocking Northwestern”s Big Ten record to 11-17, a tenth of a percent lower than Michigan”s 10-14 mark.
The Wolverines fell behind early in the game as Tim Leveque gave up three runs before being pulled in favor of Rich Hill with two outs in the second inning. Hill walked Nick Swisher with the bases loaded before getting out of the inning putting the Buckeyes up 4-0 after two frames.
Despite Leveque”s impressive 2.63 earned run average, coach Geoff Zahn”s explanation to pull Leveque so early in the ballgame was simple.
“He was giving up runs,” Zahn said. “This was do or die for us.”
While the Wolverines struggled with their pitching, freshman Josh Newman threw 11 strikeouts for the Buckeyes while allowing just seven hits and two runs. The 11 strikeouts a personal high for Newman was the most for any Buckeye pitcher this season. Newman struggled in the seventh inning by giving up three hits and one run, but regained his composure to shut out the Wolverines over the last two innings and throw his first complete game.
The Wolverines didn”t get a hit until Blake Rutkowski”s single in the third inning. Michigan immediately squandered the opportunity as Newman picked off Rutkowski trying to steal second to end the inning.
In the fourth inning, the Wolverines closed the score to 4-1 with a sacrifice fly by Jake Fox but didn”t score again until the seventh inning on an RBI single by Bill LaRosa.
With Ohio State”s win and Purdue”s 2-1 loss to Iowa, the Buckeyes clinched the Big Ten regular season title, home field advantage during the Big Ten Tournament where they will play another game against Michigan at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Although the Wolverines won just once in the four game series, Zahn was happy with the way Michigan played over the weekend.
“This series I thought we played pretty well,” he said. “They beat us today pretty good (but) the other games we were close and we came back.”
The Wolverines could use a change of luck before their next game.
“The first game we lost yesterday, a guy makes a great catch in the outfield. Otherwise it”s a tie ballgame,” Zahn said, referring to Steve Cavarati”s diving catch during the seventh and final inning in Saturday”s first game.
“It”s kind of been that way for us this year.”
For the record: Scott Tousa moved up in the Michigan record book on yesterday in three different all-time lists for the Wolverines. With 210 hits, 680 at-bats and 200 career games played he is now placed eighth, fourth and ninth in these respective categories.
Rabid Buckeyes: Adding to the frustration of a 9-2 loss, Ohio State fans behind the Michigan dugout heckled the Wolverines throughout the game. When asked if the team was heckled at other road games, Zahn responded: “No, only here. It”s something you have to learn to play with. Our kids knew about it before. It”s part of the rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan.”