Senior catcher Chris Berset grabbed the ball coming in from right field, crouched into a stance in front of home plate, and collided with the Purdue runner — who sent Berset into a backwards somersault.
Despite the collision, the tag was good for the third out of the third inning on Sunday, stopping the Boilermakers from taking the lead over the Wolverines (4-2 Big Ten, 18-11 overall). The out kept the momentum on the Wolverines’ side as they climbed to a 9-3 victory and the series win.
The weekend began with a disappointing 8-5 loss to Purdue at home Friday. The Boilermakers (2-4, 15-14) gained control of the game early on, taking advantage of senior ace pitcher Alan Oaks’s struggles on the mound. Oaks allowed two runs in both the first and second innings, and gave up a total of six earned runs in six innings.
On Purdue’s mound, pitcher Matt Bischoff was unstoppable. Bischoff, who recently won his second Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Award of the young season, allowed only two Wolverine runs on seven hits, while striking out nine batters.
Freshman centerfielder Patrick Biondi posed the greatest threat against Bischoff, leading the offense with three hits. His double in the bottom of the ninth drove in two RBI and sparked a last-ditch comeback effort for Michigan, but it wasn’t enough.
After a disappointing start to the series, the Wolverines came back on Saturday afternoon desperate to even the tally.
“We killed the momentum that they had gained the night before,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “I thought it was important, the way we scored three runs the last inning, even though we lost. The reality is usually there’s a carryover.”
A four-run rally in the bottom of the second inning Saturday set the tone for the game and gave Michigan pitchers confidence on the mound. Redshirt freshman left-hander Bobby Brosnahan led the Wolverines, striking out six batters and maintaining a comfortable Michigan advantage throughout the game to earn his fourth win of the season. Junior pitcher Tyler Burgoon came in to relieve Brosnahan and struck out three Boilermakers in just over two innings.
And the contributions kept coming. Biondi tallied his 19th stolen base of the season, tying the program’s freshman record for stolen bases set by Bruce Fox in 1955. This places Biondi in a four-way tie for 10th place on the single-season stolen-base list, just 29 games into the season.
“Patrick’s had an amazing freshman year up to this point,” Maloney said. “He hasn’t been playing like a freshman from day one. To put him in the lead-off position and for him to be able to handle it the way he has is pretty special.”
Biondi, who was selected in the 35th round of the MLB draft by the Detroit Tigers out of high school, admitted that he didn’t know he had tied any record.
Junior leftfielder Ryan LaMarre, an offensive powerhouse who recently returned from a six-week injury, used the series to show Michigan fans that he is back in action. LaMarre led the batters on Saturday with three hits, including a double and one run.
In Sunday’s win, LaMarre had three hits, two doubles and one triple; three RBI and two runs in just four trips to the plate. His long triple to left field — which was almost a home run but banked off the top of the fence to stay in — sparked the big rally in the fourth.
“It feels unreal to be back in the lineup,” LaMarre said. “These guys did fine while I was gone but I could only watch so many games from the stands. It’s great to be back out there.”
The Wolverines have won their first two series of the eight Big Ten matchups this season. Despite gaining good position in the conference early, the team has a full plate waiting for it the rest of the season. Michigan has yet to sweep a series, but its resiliency in taking the deciding games has been promising.
“Our goal every time we come into a weekend is to win the series. If we could sweep that’s great,” LaMarre said. “But we always start by getting two (wins) first. This speaks for our team. We are never going to give up and we are always going to move on. To lose the first this weekend and then win two says a lot.”