The Michigan baseball team took a break from its busy collegiate schedule to play the New York Mets in an exhibition game yesterday afternoon at the Tradition Field Complex in Port Saint Lucie, Fla.
After sweeping Siena in a three-game series, the Wolverines found themselves on the other side of the ball.
The Wolverines were blown out 18-7 by the Mets in a stark departure from last year’s game.
Last February, the Wolverines battled to a 4-4 tie with the Mets and received attention from national media outlets for all the wrong reasons. Then-junior second baseman Kevin Cislo attempted a bunt in the fourth inning, trying to advance a runner on second with just one out. The play drew the ire of then-Mets’ closer Billy Wagner.
“If he got that bunt down, I would have drilled the next guy,” Wagner said after the game. “Play to win against Villanova.”
This time the Mets exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the second for an early 8-0 lead.
But Michigan quickly responded, turning to no other than Cislo, now a tri-captain, to provide the offense. And this time, the senior wasn’t looking to bunt. Cislo knocked in a single down the middle to lead the attack. Junior first baseman Mike Dufek sent a ball over right field for a two-run homer, triggering a five-run inning to cut the lead to three.
But that would be as close as it got. The Wolverines’ pitching was no match for the big bats of the major leaguers, and the Mets scored seven more runs in the next two innings.
“Everyone was looking forward to the game,” Cislo said. “It was a fun game last year and a fun game this year.”
But all was not lost for the Wolverines on the weekend, with a sweep of Siena (1-11) in Port St. Lucie, Fl.
Senior pitcher Chris Fetter collected his 200th career strikeout with an 11-strikeout performance on Friday in the first game against the Saints. Michigan’s defensive play stifled the Siena offense, allowing just three runs off eight hits.
“It shows that I’ve been able to pitch quite a bit in these last four years,” Fetter said of the milestone. “I credit my teammates around me and the teams I’ve been on that have allowed me to pitch that much.”
Despite strong pitching by Fetter in the first game of the series, the Wolverines found themselves down 1-0 to the Saints after the first inning. A two-run homer in the second inning by freshman shortstop John Lorenz sparked the offensive attack and gave Michigan a one-run lead. Junior second baseman Nick Urban continued the offensive production with a three-run homer in the fifth inning, and another three-run performance in the eighth-inning sealed the 11-3 victory over Siena.
The strong defensive play in the first game against the Saints was a sign of things to come. Last weekend, Michigan was plagued by inconsistent pitching and poor defense. But in this series, the Wolverines’ defense stepped up when pitching wasn’t there.
Michigan gave up a total of 12 hits to Siena in the second game, the first in Saturday’s doubleheader, but it allowed the Saints offense just three runs. The Wolverines’ offensive output came from an unexpected source. Freshman Coley Crank earned his first collegiate RBI to put Michigan on the scoreboard first.
And he wasn’t done for the night. Crank went 3-for-3 with two RBI in the winning effort.
“He was making good contact and was able to find holes,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “I think he’s a really good hitter and he has a chance to be a good really player for us. He gave our team a good lift.”
The second game of Saturday’s doubleheader and the last game of the series was more of the same. The Wolverines lit up the scoreboard with 19 runs to overpower the Saints. This time, the offense came from sophomore outfielder Ryan LaMarre, who pulled in a three-run homer to extend his hitting streak to eight. And again, Crank went 3-for-3 with an RBI single to help Michigan in its 19-6 win over Siena.
“We’re trying to win and gain experience at the same time, which isn’t easy to do,” Maloney said. “But so far, the kids have been able to do it.”