Spring break just started, and the Michigan baseball team is spending the conclusion of the first weekend satisfied after a 4-2 win over South Florida in St. Petersburg on Sunday.
The Wolverines (3-4 overall) participated in the Big Ten/Big East Baseball Challenge at the Naimoli Complex. The weekend started rough for Michigan. The team lost to No. 20 Louisville on Friday 2-0, and after poor weather forced a lengthy delay, the Wolverines were defeated by St. Johns in an 2-1 contest.
But Michigan will make its way back to Ann Arbor with at least one victory over the three-day trip.
Junior pitcher Tyler Burgoon tallied a career-high seven strikeouts in the matchup. Burgoon gave up just three hits against two batters.
“We pitched extremely well,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “We didn’t hit very well so they were all pitching duals. … Our pitching was outstanding, and our defense was outstanding. And even though we were 1-2, I think if you pitch and play defense, over time we are going to have a chance.”
For relief came in sophomore pitcher Brandon Sinnery. Sinnery recorded his first save of this season against South Florida (1-5). Sinnery pitched five strikeouts. Neither Sinnery nor Burgoon let up a walk in the entire game.
“I think he’s had something like nine innings and he hasn’t given up a run yet,” Maloney said. “Certainly something we need so that we can afford to be able to start Tyler because we need someone we can go to at the end. It looks like Brandon is going to be the guy. He has been sharp. A lot of people have made very good comments of him.”
Pitching was exceptional. However, it will be batting and scoring runs that the Wolverines will have to work on.
It’s especially hard for Michigan to score without one of its best hitters in junior outfielder Ryan LaMarre. LaMarre led the team in runs last season with 55 of them and boasted the best batting average of -.344. LaMarre is out with what officials have said is just a “clean break.” He is not expected to return until Big Ten play begins.
“The team is not hitting as well as we’d like with LaMarre’s injury,” Maloney said. “Hitting on all cylinders, without Ryan LaMarre in the lineup we are going to have to fight and scrap for runs.”
After the Bulls capped in one run in the sixth inning the game was all tied up 2-2. But Michigan then composed the perfect response.
Senior catcher Chris Berset singled, hit a homerun and had two runs scored.
Then the freshmen stepped up their game. And in his debut, freshman designated hitter Cam Luther was walked. This put two men at base and freshman shortstop Derek Dennis was up to bat. Dennis hit one to the mound.
“Dennis is playing outstanding defense,” Maloney said. “He is supposed to be a star player and hes playing shortstop like he is. I am very, very pleased with our freshmen class at this point.”
The South Florida pitcher attempted to snag Berset out at third but the toss was overthrown. Berset redeemed from his slide and continued to home plate — good for one run, and senior third basemen Mike Kittle, pinch running for Luther, scored the last run to put Michigan up 4-2.
Four strikeouts and two innings later that was the ball game. An easier grounder infield and a throw to first based sealed a Wolverine victory.
“Defensively we played a clean series,” junior pitcher Matt Miller said. “I don’t think we had any errors all weekend. … We’re doing what we can to pull out wins It’s a team game. We are just going to need to stay together and trust each other. … We have to think what we can do to win the games. We have the guys and we have the talent. The biggest thing is just to trust.”