After a tough weekend series against Michigan State, including Sunday’s 13-inning loss, the Michigan baseball team had little energy left. The Wolverines entered Tuesday’s midweek game against Bowling Green lethargic.
The Michigan offense produced just three hits and one run against the Falcons en route to a 2-1 loss. But the Wolverines’ lack of stamina wasn’t evident at first.
With two outs in the first inning, freshman left fielder Will Drake doubled down the left-field line and senior catcher Coley Crank batted him in on a single.
But the Wolverines (2-4 Big Ten, 15-18 overall) didn’t have anything left in the tank.
Though neither team impressed at the plate, Michigan posted only one additional hit throughout the next eight innings, while Bowling Green (2-7 MAC, 12-20) notched a total of six.
The silent bats left Michigan coach Rich Maloney quiet after the game.
A dull day and lackluster play seemed to go hand-in-hand with forceful winds and the brisk 39-degree air.
“The elements sometimes make it a tough day to score,” Maloney said.
Sophomore first baseman Brett Winger didn’t blame anything but the team’s ho-hum efforts for the loss.
“We can’t really make excuses,” Winger said. “I don’t think it should effect the turn out of the game. … We just have to deal with it.”
What kept Michigan afloat was its pitching staff and a handful of key defensive plays. Freshman right-hander James Bourque got the start, and threw for 5.1 innings without a single earned run.
After giving up only one hit in the first three innings, Bourque briefly struggled and loaded the bases, allowing two singles and hitting Bowling Green catcher Jeremy Shay. He struck out the next Falcon in the lineup, and redshirt sophomore second baseman John DiLaura tagged Shay for the final out.
It was Bourque’s seventh appearance on the mound this season and he proved himself a worthy midweek starter, throwing six strikeouts and allowing no walks. But after holding Bowling Green scoreless in the first five innings, Falcon first baseman Drew Kuns recorded an unearned run after a second-base fielding error and wild pitch.
Maloney likes to use the midweek games as an opportunity for some of the less experienced players to see some action. After Bourque’s solid performance, sophomore right-hander Jake Engels hurled for his first inning since March 17 against Coastal Carolina.
Engels gave up a walk but no hits or runs to keep the game tied 1-1 before sophomore right-hander Alex Lakatos came out of the bullpen.
Lakatos has been an asset as of late. He’s taken the mound in four out of the last six games without giving up a single earned run in 15 innings of work.
“Our pitchers pitched well,” Maloney said. “We could’ve easily won the game one to nothing.”
Since the batting order couldn’t make contact, Winger’s nearly perfect defensive skills helped hold Bowling Green to few runs. He made a jumping catch to snag Falcon shortstop Brandon Howard’s line drive to first base in the fifth inning.
Winger made the routine plays and tallied the Wolverines’ final hit of the game with a single to the pitcher but was tagged out at second base on a fielder’s choice.
Though his fielding is right on target, Winger recently fell into a slump at the plate. But he’s confident that his swing is improving, and he’s focused on his approach, trying to aim toward right field and relaxing his hands.
Falcon pinch runner Alex Davison scored the winning run in the eighth inning due to another second-base fielding error and sacrifice bunt.
Michigan needed the same unlikely players to step up like they did against the Spartans. But after only one inning of offensive work, there was no one in the lineup with enough energy to produce the same results.
“Our options are really limited,” Maloney said. “We’ll go out there and see if we can play better tomorrow.”