After an abysmal weekend in Minnesota, Michigan looked to cure its hitting woes at home. The Wolverines took advantage of their first opportunity to improve yesterday against Central Michigan.
Led at the plate by senior Matt Butler and junior Mike Schmidt, the Wolverines strung together 12 hits en route to a 7-2 victory over the Chippewas.
The Wolverines’ turnaround was most evident in the sixth inning.
The score was 2-1 and junior Chris Getz and senior Kyle Bohm had flied out to begin the inning. Michigan appeared to be falling back into the hole.
But the Wolverines were ready to prove to themselves that their bats hadn’t died but were just dormant.
After juniors Jeff Kunkel and A.J. Scheidt reached base on a single and triple and junior Matt Rademacher walked, sophomore Leif Mahler ripped a line drive down the leftfield line for a one run double, giving Michigan a 4-1 lead. Central Michigan coach Steve Jaksa hoped to cool the Wolverines down by bringing in lefty Jayson Ruhlman to face Schmidt. Ruhlman was able to force a ground ball, but, as third baseman Jim Geldhof and shortstop Troy Moratti converged towards the ball, the miscommunication between the two resulted in a single and two more runs for Michigan.
The Wolverines added one more run off a single by Butler to cap their scoring for the day.
“It was nice,” Butler said. “Especially when you have a bunch of two-out hits in a row. I think it’s a big confidence builder. When one guy (gets a hit), it takes the pressure off.”
Michigan also excelled in the field. Sophomore centerfielder Eric Rose set the tone for the defense when he robbed Moratti with a diving catch in the first inning. In the third, Bohm made a nice snag at first and tagged the bag himself to record the second out of the inning.
But the biggest defensive play of the game belonged to Mahler. With runners on second and third with two outs in the sixth inning, Central Michigan needed a base hit to take the lead. Brad Foutch hit a soft line drive that seemed destined for center, but Mahler was quick to run behind second base, dive and make the catch before he hit the ground. The Wolverines would break open the game in the bottom half of the inning.
“The tale of the game is when (Mahler) made that diving play,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “The next inning, we come back and get five runs. We stopped their two runs and we turned that into runs on our side, and that was the difference in the game.”
Before the sixth, Michigan had pushed across two runs — both scored with two outs — because of the smart play of Getz. In the first, Getz put himself in scoring position after stealing second base and advancing to third after the catcher’s throw sailed into centerfield. He would later score on a wild pitch. Then, in the third inning, Getz practiced what every baseball coach preaches — executing a sacrifice fly. The flyout scored Schmidt from third.
“I think, if you look at our statistics, we have a team with a solid ERA, a solid batting average and a solid fielding percentage,” Maloney said. “I think we’ve stayed with what we’re doing, and it’s been working. We stay to the plan, and the plan is to keep hitting from the middle to the other way, move the runners and do the little things well.”
Yesterday’s win gives the Wolverines some momentum heading into this weekend’s series against Iowa.
“We definitely wanted to get a win here,” Butler said “After coming off a rough weekend like this you want to get back on the horse as fast as you can. We’re excited about what’s happened, and we’re excited to try and keep it going.”