This was supposed to be an easy win. Instead, the Michigan baseball team lost decisively to Toledo, 6-2, at Ray Fisher Stadium yesterday evening.

Starting on the mound for the Wolverines was junior right-hander Ben Ballantine, who statistically could be considered the best Michigan pitcher this season. Between him, senior right-hander Brandon Sinnery and redshirt junior left-hander Bobby Brosnahan, Ballantine has the lowest ERA, 3.40. He hasn’t been tagged with a loss yet this season, and he’s struck out a team-high 33 batters.

But lately, the Napa, Calif. native hasn’t been playing as well as his numbers indicate.

Two weekends ago, the Wolverines matched up against Minnesota in a three-game series. Ballantine started on the mound on the final day of the series, but he was taken out after a mere two innings pitched. In those two innings, he gave up four hits and three runs, two of which were earned.

Last weekend fared similarly for Ballantine. Once again, he started the conclusion of the three-game series, and once again, he was pulled out early. Pitted against Michigan State, he lasted 1.2 innings and gave up four hits and three earned runs.

Michigan coach Rich Maloney gave him another chance in Wednesday’s game against Toledo, but continuing the pattern, he was taken out after only two innings. But this time, he pitched nearly flawlessly, giving up just one hit and no runs.

“Ballantine did alright,” Maloney said. “We believed in him. The first five or six games he pitched, he had quality starts.”

After two scoreless innings, Maloney inserted redshirt senior right-hander Kolby Wood for Ballantine, and then made another switch, putting junior right-hander Kyle Clark on the mound.

Toledo (4-5 MAC, 15-18 overall) quickly added four runs — three off of Wood — to the scoreboard. The Wolverines (2-4 Big Ten, 15-19 overall), responded to Toledo’s lead with one run, scored by freshman shortstop Dylan Delaney after senior third baseman John Lorenz got a hit to left field.

But Maloney shook things up once more and decided to pitch redshirt sophomore left-hander Logan McAnallen, who allowed no runs in five innings.

“My big goal tonight was to limit freebies: walks and hits by pitches,” McAnallen said. “I made that a priority, and that’s what I did. In the past, that’s where I’ve gotten in trouble, when I just give things away.”

Added Maloney: “I think Logan McAnallen did a great job, which was encouraging. We’re going to need some guys to step up.”

Freshman right fielder Zach Zott, who has started in the past five games, is another one of those players who is stepping up.

“We weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to keep him on the roster, from a numbers standpoint,” Maloney said.

“We knew he was going to be a talent in the future, but we thought maybe he was going to redshirt. But he just kept getting better and better, and we said ‘No, we’ve got to keep that guy.’ And he’s getting his opportunity now. I really think he’s going to be a star.”

One of the team’s other stars, freshman outfielder Will Drake, injured his ankle while running to first base in the bottom of the fourth.

“I don’t know the extent of it, but he was hurt pretty bad when he was coming off, so I have a feeling he’s out for awhile,” Maloney said.

The number of players with injuries are stacking up. Wood has been injured for the past two seasons. Every time Maloney tries to play him, like in yesterday’s game, he is taken out almost immediately.

“He’s fighting hard to come back, and he just hasn’t been able to yet,” Maloney said. “No one hurts more than he does. We all root for him because he works so hard.”

Junior outfielder Michael O’Neill has sat out the past five games due to a thumb injury that he sustained diving for a ball against Central Michigan last week. It’s unclear when he will be able to return to the plate.

“The bottom line is, we’ve got to play good defense with all the guys that are injured,” Maloney said. “We’re not an offensive juggernaut now. Three of our best players are out.”

Maloney subbed freshman catcher Kevin White in for Drake in the top of the fifth. He also used redshirt freshman right-hander Jay Perry and then senior right-hander Kevin Vangheluwe on the mound for the final inning.

Freshman infielder Mike Dolloff got an RBI in the eighth, but Toledo ended the game’s scoring in the ninth with a home run that brought in two players.

It was a disappointing loss for Michigan.

“I was predicting we would win,” McAnallen said. “It sucks to drop these midweeks that we need to get us in the groove going into the weekend.”

Though yesterday’s loss was unexpected, the team is gearing up for its face-off with Penn State this weekend.

“We don’t want to lose any games, but the reality is, it’s all about the Big Ten,” Maloney said.

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