They knew Michigan was heading into the weekend with an 11-3 record. They heard the hostile opening-weekend crowd taunting them with adapted hockey and basketball cheers. They saw on the stat sheets that they would be facing starters with a combined record of 9-1.

But when game time rolled around for this weekend’s four-game set at The Fish, the Oakland Golden Grizzlies (1-13 overall) refused to roll over. Still, the Wolverines kept the resilient Grizzlies at hand, consistently coming back when falling behind and regularly snuffing out Oakland rallies on their way to a four-game sweep.

“It’s certainly nice to find a way to win,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “Any time you beat any team four games is an accomplishment in any sport. We battled and found a way to get it done, and we might have lost one of those games, or two. But we found a way, despite not playing our best baseball, and still won.”

Michigan completed the sweep yesterday afternoon when a three-run rally in the bottom of the eighth gave the Wolverines an insurmountable four-run lead. Junior Jeff Niemiec closed out the victory in the top of the ninth to secure a 7-4 win.

In the top of the ninth, Oakland managed to pull within three, but Niemiec notched his third strikeout of the inning to end the game.

Niemiec struggled in his win in Saturday’s first game, but Maloney believes Niemiec’s three strikeouts will give him confidence heading into the rigorous Big Ten season.

“We really believe in Niemiec, and the kid hasn’t had very much experience,” Maloney said. “So we had to run him back out there. Yesterday he struggled a little bit, and we had to get him back out there, and he punched out three guys. It was a little scary but at least he got out there so he can grow more comfortable and grow some more confidence because we’re going to need him.”

Niemiec was the last of five pitchers that Maloney used yesterday. After senior Derek Feldkamp — who improved to 4-0 on the year with the win — allowed just one hit in six innings of work, sophomore Michael McCormick, senior Phil Tognetti, sophomore Andrew Hess and Niemiec closed out the Wolverines’ victory.

“Feldkamp could have thrown the whole game,” Maloney said. “But I’m pacing them so that they’re ready for the Big Ten. My concern is not where we are at today, but where we are going later on. Our goal is to play for the Big Ten Championship and play in the regional.”

On the offensive side of yesterday’s game, Michigan managed to jump out to an early lead for the first time during the series. After scoring one run in the first and three in the second, the Wolverines had a commanding lead after failing to score during the first two innings of the series’ first three games.

Though the Wolverines got a quick start, they broke away in the eighth when first baseman Kyle Bohm dropped a fly ball in front of Oakland centerfielder Will Tollison. After designated hitter A.J. Scheidt reached first on a bunt, senior Jeff Kunkel notched a single to right field to score a run. Scheidt and Kunkel scored the Wolverines’ final two runs on a sacrifice fly by catcher Matt Rademacher and an RBI single by right fielder Doug Pickens, respectively.

Bohm and centerfielder Matt Butler led Michigan’s offensive charge all weekend long and each successfully fulfilled his individual role on the team. Bohm, the team’s cleanup hitter, totaled six RBI and Butler, the leadoff man, was 3-for-3 in Sunday’s game. Butler reached base 11 consecutive times in the series before he flew out to end the eighth inning of Sunday’s game.

With Butler, Bohm and the offense finding their tracks late in the first three games, it was up to the starting pitchers to keep the Wolverines in the game until their bats heated up. In the series opener on Friday and the doubleheader on Saturday, Michigan received solid starts from Jim Brauer, Michael Penn and Paul Hammond. Brauer improved to 4-0 on the year with his six shutout innings and Hammond struck out four while allowing only two runs in four innings of work in Saturday’s nightcap.

Penn struck out 11 and retired 15 in a row while pitching six and one-third innings but failed to earn the win in Saturday’s first game.

“It’s definitely frustrating when you’re not getting run production and run support,” Penn said. “But it’s something you have to fight through as a pitcher. It’s your job to keep your team in the ball game and we came out with a win so I’m happy.”

Despite Penn’s dominance, Michigan fell behind 4-1 in the seventh inning and found itself on the ropes. The Wolverines then orchestrated a four-run rally during their last bats in the bottom of the seventh, winning when Bohm scored from third on a passed ball on a tough pitch.

Senior Drew Taylor, who pitched three innings in relief during Saturday’s night cap, believes that such a dramatic win helped to temporarily take some of the fight out of the resilient Golden Grizzlies.

“It’s amazing (to win in such a fashion) because it gets them down,” Taylor said. “As soon as they finish that game, they have to go back in and compose themselves and come back out and play another one. When you beat them like that, dramatically in the last inning, that team will have trouble getting up in the second game.”

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