Senior utilityman Mike Kittle hasn’t played a ton this season. Aside from his time in the lineup when junior outfielder Ryan LaMarre was out with an injury, he has been mostly relegated to the bench.

But when Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney gave him the start at second base in his last ever game at Ray Fisher Stadium, Kittle was determined to have an impact at the plate.

He did just that, collecting four hits and driving in two runs to help the Wolverines defeat Ball State, 16-10, on Tuesday night.

“It feels pretty good,” Kittle said. “I’ll remember (this game) for a long time, because I’m really glad I could go out here with a bang.”

Michigan (12-9 Big Ten, 32-19 overall), following a taxing series last weekend with Northwestern, already had a depleted pitching staff, and with a huge three-game set looming with Penn State beginning Thursday, the team had to rely on its more inexperienced arms against the Cardinals.

That led to freshman right-hander Kyle Clark making his first career start. The Portage native has been used sparingly this season, logging just 11.2 innings before last night.

His greenness showed early, as Ball State (18-6 Mid-American, 27-25 overall) put up three runs in the first inning to take the early lead. But he settled down somewhat over the rest of his 3.1 innings, and while the Wolverine pitchers combined to allow 10 runs on 14 hits, the team’s offense compensated more than enough.

Besides Kittle, two other Michigan batters had four hits, and sophomore designated hitter/catcher Coley Crank launched two home runs and collected six RBI on the night.

“This was going to be a challenging game,” Maloney said. “We didn’t know how we’d respond on the mound … we let some young players get their feet wet, (and) they did a decent job. They gave us what we needed to have.”

And after last Sunday’s mind-blowing 14-run comeback win over Northwestern, the Wolverines knew how to respond when faced with an early 4-1 deficit going into the bottom of the third inning.

Michigan promptly scored three times in the home half of the inning and seven in the next frame, providing enough support to secure the victory and keep the winning momentum going into the upcoming critical series at State College.

LaMarre said he thinks the Wolverines’ poised performance Tuesday night was a direct result of their amazing rally against Northwestern.

“We all started to trust each other, and I felt like even when (Ball State) scored those four runs in the first couple innings, no one got tight,” LaMarre said. “Everyone was still having loose at-bats. (The comeback) sparked us to play loose, trust each other, relax and just have fun. It was a different atmosphere, even when we were getting down runs. “

Maloney admitted he continues to be concerned about his team’s pitching, as Michigan has given up 50 runs in its last five games.

But he was happy the Wolverines won by a comfortable enough margin over the Cardinals to allow him to play several seniors in their last games of their careers at home.

“They’re a big part of the team,” Maloney said. “Even some of the guys that don’t get to play much, (it was good to have them) get the opportunity here. It was nice to get (senior catcher) Vinny Sarafa in there for everything he’s given to the team. And Mike Kittle … to have a big day like that, in his last day on the home field, is pretty special.”

Notes: Freshman outfielder Patrick Biondi continued his ascent up the Michigan record books. His run scored in the first inning was his 62nd of the year, breaking the single season freshman record … LaMarre was picked to go 23rd overall in Baseball America’s most recent mock draft. He said he hasn’t thought about his future, though, and that he’s “just trying to really focus on the team and the team goals right now.” … Maloney said the rotation remains unsettled for the Penn State series. Senior right-hander Alan Oaks will get the ball in Thursday’s opener, but it is unclear who will follow.

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