Three times in the past two weeks, Michigan had been clinging to a tenuous lead with its opponent in position to steal the win.
That meant one thing: late in the game, it was Tyler Burgoon time.
The junior right-hander trotted out from the bullpen all three times to shut down the potential late-inning rally.
The Defiance, Ohio native’s successful run began on March 30 against Eastern Michigan. Burgoon entered the action in the seventh inning with a runner at second after the Eagles had just scored four runs to cut the deficit to one. But Burgoon got out of that jam, and finished the game unscathed to preserve the win.
Against Indiana on April 3, Burgoon came in the game in the bottom of the ninth with Michigan holding a 6-4 lead and once again closed the door on the comeback attempt.
And Saturday against Purdue, with the Wolverines desperately needing a win to even the series, he relieved redshirt freshman left-hander Bobby Brosnahan and halted the Boilermakers’ rally, pitching a near-flawless 2.1 innings to pick up his team-leading fourth save of the year.
“Burgoon was outstanding and that was huge,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said after Saturday’s win. “And we needed that. We have to win games in all different ways, and this is a good team win.”
It’s been a breakout year for Burgoon, who saw extensive time out of the bullpen in 2008 and 2009, logging 37 innings in each season.
But Burgoon’s ERA in his first two years was a pedestrian 4.86. This season has seen a full run drop in that department, to 3.86. And his clutch play in the latter part of games has allowed him to accumulate a 4-1 record with four saves — already as many as he collected all of last year.
With the Wolverines’ Sunday starter a question mark every weekend, due to inconsistency from junior right-hander Matt Miller and senior left-hander Eric Katzman, Burgoon’s success could lead to a new role as the team’s No. 3 starter — he has started three games already this season.
But for his part, the junior is satisfied with finishing the contest.
“Earlier in the season, we were experimenting with starting and whatnot,” Burgoon said. “But (I’m) back to the pen, and I feel a lot more at home there being able to come in and close out a game and give us a ‘W’.”
In whatever role Burgoon comes to play, his importance to the Wolverines’ success as the Big Ten season unfolds can’t be doubted.
“(Burgoon’s) had a long history of being a successful reliever,” Maloney said. “I think he really looked good to me Saturday. I was pleased. And it’s nice to have a guy like that at the back end of the bullpen.”
LaMarre back to form: Junior outfielder Ryan LaMarre hinted toward a full comeback from a broken thumb with a 1-for-3 performance last Wednesday against Central Michigan in his first start since the injury.
After the game, he said he wasn’t close to 100 percent and wouldn’t be for a couple of weeks.
But you wouldn’t know it from seeing him last weekend against Purdue.
LaMarre returned to his traditional No. 3 spot in the batting order Saturday, and went a combined 6-for-9 with an RBI in the first two games of the series. But Sunday provided further proof that he may be rounding into top form.
The Jackson native went 3-for-4 with three RBI on the day, displaying his power with a triple and bases-clearing double — each of which nearly cleared the fence.
“If he’s not (Big Ten) Player of the Week, then I don’t know what more he can do,” Maloney said. “Especially coming off an injury. First time back, he hasn’t seen much live pitching and for him to perform the way he did and get big hits just really helps the team.”
LaMarre was forced to sit for six weeks because of his injury and grew frustrated at not being able to play. In his absence, Michigan was involved in several close games against top competition, going 5-5 in games decided by three runs or fewer. His presence could certainly have swung several of the losses into wins.
But he’s back now, a fact that bodes well for the Wolverines’ chances from this point forward.
“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. Its great to be back out there.”
Sinnery’s success: Maloney was unsure about who would start Sunday’s series finale after Burgoon had to be used extensively in Saturday’s win. Among a host of candidates arose sophomore right-hander Brandon Sinnery.
Maloney told him he would be getting the ball while the lanky Worcester, Mass. native was at dinner Saturday night.
In his first career start, Sinnery made good on Maloney’s endorsement, going six strong innings and allowing just one earned run. His performance was crucial, as it allowed the Wolverines to win the game and take the series, remaining tied for first in the Big Ten standings.