In the middle of the fifth inning of yesterday’s home opener at Ray Fisher Stadium, No. 25 Michigan had yet to record a hit against Oakland.

But the Wolverines still led, 2-1.

Despite the hitless streak, Michigan capitalized on the Golden Grizzlies’ errors in a 7-4 win.

In the fifth inning, junior Kevin Cislo reached second after a throwing error, and later scored on a sacrifice fly.

“That’s part of baseball,” Cislo said. “If they make an error, you have to score on that play.”

After five hitless innings, junior Adam Abraham’s line drive double to center field in that inning finally broke the streak.

Michigan coach Rich Maloney said “freebies” – his term for errors, walks and stolen bases – were key to his team’s victory. The Grizzlies gave up 10 more freebies than the Wolverines.

In the second inning, senior Kevin VanBuskirk reached base and subsequently scored Michigan’s first run of the afternoon after two errors by Oakland junior third baseman Jonathon Zalenski.

The freebies proved critical. Although the Wolverines scored seven runs, just three were earned, and they had just six hits.

The Wolverine pitching staff was key to yesterday’s victory, too.

Freshman Travis Smith earned the win for Michigan (9-6), becoming the first Wolverine to throw a pitch in the newly renovated Ray Fisher Stadium.

Unfortunately for him, that first pitch was a ball.

Smith struggled to adjust to the frigid Michigan weather. Yesterday was the first time this season the Wolverines played north of the Mason-Dixon line this season. Smith threw three more balls to walk his first batter on four pitches.

“It’s a little different throwing when it’s 45 degrees,” Smith said. “You got to do a lot more stuff to prepare yourself.”

The Austin, Texas native struggled throughout the first inning, giving up an early run. Oakland right fielder Dan Ryan hit an RBI single, driving in center fielder Justin Wilson, who reached base on Smith’s lead off walk.

But the first-inning run was the only one Smith allowed all day. He threw five innings and struck out six batters.

“I just warmed up,” Smith said. “I was pretty confident in my pitches, and my defense played pretty well.”

With Smith off the mound, the Grizzlies (2-10) made a late charge in the eighth inning. After a controversial call when Oakland’s Wilson was called out after sliding around, but not touching, home plate, the Grizzlies earned three runs off freshman pitcher Tyler Burgoon.

But Burgoon came back and held Oakland scoreless in the ninth.

In all of Michigan’s losses, pitching has been a concern. But yesterday it was the bats that faltered.

“We need to focus on getting better hits,” Cislo said. “Not on pounding the ball or swinging too early, but on getting our pitches and just letting it rip.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *