Food Network cooking show host Emeril Lagasse always talks about
three things: using the right ingredients, using those ingredients
in the right order to maximize potency and finding the perfect
consistency. For Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney, the
ingredients are there. The hard part is finding the right order and
consistency.

Julie Pannuto
Junior Michael Penn turned in one of the strongest performances by a Michigan pitcher in Florida last weekend, allowing just three base runners in five innings. (TONY DING/Daily)

The Wolverines (0-5) spent the weekend in Florida at the New
York Mets training facility, taking on the University of
Illinois-Chicago in a three game series.

“It was like being in a big league (spring training)
camp,” junior catcher Jeff Kunkel said.

Michigan held leads in the first two games of the weekend, but
thanks to some inconsistent play, found itself in the losing column
all weekend.

“It’s hard to look really big until you’ve won
some games.” Maloney said. “To get over the hump, we
are going to have to have some success.”

Maloney continually tinkered with his lineup over the weekend,
putting forth a different look each day. The weekend had many
notable individual performances. Yesterday’s 13-1 shellacking
saw junior Nick Rudden go 2-for-3 in the two spot. During
Saturday’s 4-3 extra innings loss, freshman Brad Roblin moved
up from number two into the leadoff spot and went 2-for-4. And
Friday’s 7-4 series-opening loss came on a day when Kunkel
pounded out a perfect 4-for-4 performance.

“During our nonconference games, we are going to play a
lot of guys,” Maloney said. “We are going to try and
figure out what the right lineup is and get the right pitchers in
at the right times.”

Yesterday’s performance was not what coach Maloney was
hoping to see after a close loss Saturday. The Wolverines
didn’t put up much of a fight, notching one run on six hits.
The game was sealed for the Flames when Mike Hughes drilled a Phil
Tognetti pitch into the stands with the bases loaded in the fourth
to put Illinois Chicago ahead 8-1.

Saturday’s contest looked like it could be
Michigan’s first win. After Michigan battled back from a 2-0
deficit when sophomore A.J. Scheidt scored in the fifth off of a
throwing error, the teams remained deadlocked at two heading into
extra innings. In the top of the tenth, the Wolverines found
themselves on top after Rudden’s RBI single to drove in
junior Matt Butler.

Michigan failed to widen their lead following a two-out single
off the bat of junior Kyle Bohm. Bohm watched the Flames left
fielder, Shane Crowder, chase his ball, as Chris Getz was storming
home, but Crowder’s throw to the plate beat Getz and the
rally was stifled before Michigan could add an insurance run.

Illinois-Chicago tied the game up in the bottom half of the
frame on a Crowder RBI. In the bottom of the 11th, inconsistency
prevailed, as a wild pitch from Michigan freshman Andrew Hess got
past the catcher, Kunkel, allowing the Flames’ Jordan DeVoir
to steal a run and the game.

“I’m very confident in these guys,” Maloney
said. “I believe that we will settle things down
here.”

Despite falling short in all three games, the Wolverines did
enjoy some positives. Kunkel, who is in his first season as
starting catcher, leads the team with a .539 batting average.

After allowing a pair of runners he inherited from junior Bobby
Garza to score, sophomore Derek Feldkamp looked sharp Friday. He
gave up just one run of his own in 4 2/3 innings of work.

On Saturday, junior Michael Penn turned in the best performance
from a starting pitcher this year, as he yielded just three base
runners, two of whom scored, in five innings of work.

“We have a lot of talented pitchers,” Kunkel said.
“That’s going to be a strong suit for us.”

Inconsistencies have played a major role in the
Wolverines’ less than desirable start. With the pitchers
yielding too many big innings, Maloney’s small ball lineup
has struggled to play from behind.

“When you start from behind, and you know you’re not
a big offensive team, you really put yourself in a bind,”
Maloney said.

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