The Wolverines made Duane Banks Field in the plains of Iowa seem more like Coors Field in the Rocky Mountains. Without the aid of thin air, Michigan (3-1 Big Ten, 11-10 overall) smacked four homeruns, and the Wolverines bombarded Iowa (1-3, 7-9) for 21 hits, en route to an easy 20-4 victory.
“Game four of a series is typically when the pitching gets thinner,” coach Rich Maloney said. “On top of that, the wind was blowing out for us.”
In the first inning, Michigan took advantage of some Iowa mistakes in the field. After Gino Lollio grounded out, Nick Rudden walked and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice. A wild pitch let Rudden advance to third. Then, Jake Fox’s ground ball to second should have ended the inning, but Iowa second baseman Andy Lytle made a throwing error, allowing Rudden to score the first run of the game. That was the start to what was going to be a long day for the Hawkeyes.
Michigan kept up the pressure in the top of the second. Nate Wright followed up a Chris Burhans single with a homerun to left-center field, widening Michigan’s lead to 3-0.
Iowa pitcher Chris Maliszewski escaped with just moderate damage in the first two innings, but the wheels came off in the third.
The first five Michigan batters reached safely on base hits. A Rudden single was followed by a Brock Koman double to right-center. Then, a Fox single was followed by doubles off the bats of Jordan Cantalamessa and Mike Sokol. Maliszewski left without recording an out in the third. Fox’s single extended his hitting streak to 17 games.
Unfortunately for Iowa, relief pitcher Nick Jensen did not fare much better. After recording two quick outs, Jensen hit Jason Wuerfel with a pitch and walked Lollio to load the bases. Rudden advanced each of the runners one base with an RBI single to widen the lead to 5-0.
Then the big blow: Brock Koman cleared the bases with a grand slam to left center. With one swing, Koman stretched the lead to 9-0 and all but assured that the Wolverines would come back to Ann Arbor with three wins in four games in their opening Big Ten series of the year.
“Our confidence level is high – as a senior this is the first time that we’ve gone on the road and taken three out of four,” Sokol said.
Fox and Lollio added homers in the later innings to pad the Wolverines’ lead.
“We have a lot of veteran hitters and we know that it’s up to us to either pick up our pitchers when they’re struggling or help them out when they’re going well,” Fox said.
Making his first start of the year for the Wolverines was Phil Tognetti. Coming off of a solid relief win against Central Michigan last week, the sophomore went 6.2 innings while surrendering just two runs.
“Phil Tognetti threw really well (Tuesday), and he did the same today,” Fox said. “He was keeping batters off balance all day.”
With the win, the Wolverines find themselves over .500 for the first time since the 2001 season. They are also 3-1 where it matters the most – in the Big Ten season.
“We’ve talked about being prepared for the Big Ten because everything before this weekend was preseason,” Fox said. “Everyone has increased their focus.”
The Wolverines will look to improve on their winning record when they host Eastern Michigan tomorrow.