It took eight innings for the Michigan baseball team to finally pull away from Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne, but it wasn’t because they didn’t have the opportunities.
Despite tallying 11 hits, the Wolverines scored just four runs, two of them coming in the eighth inning from senior Derek VanBuskirk and sophomore Chris Berset. But Michigan’s eight stranded runners were the night’s most telling number.
The problems started early, when Michigan left two runners on base in the first inning after a one-out walk from senior Leif Mahler and a single by junior Zach Putnam. The struggles continued into the seventh inning, when freshman Ryan LaMarre started the inning with a double to left-center field. He advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by junior Kevin Cislo but was unable to score.
For a team that had to postpone three games in one week, Michigan was just glad it got on track.
“We’ve had a long time off from seeing live pitching out in the field,” VanBuskirk said. “This is our first time outside since our last game, its going to take a little while to get our rhythm going, but we got the job done and got the ‘W’.”
After practicing indoor for nearly a week, the Wolverines’ base running was also suspect.
In the fourth inning, with two outs and the game tied at two, Cislo tried stealing second base with a man on third.
Noticing the turmoil on the other side of the diamond, freshman Ryan LaMarre tried to sneak home while Cislo retreated back to first. But the Mastodons noticed him advancing and threw LaMarre out at the plate.
“We got 11 hits – you can’t say much about that,” Maloney said. “We just didn’t get the big inning. There’s not too many times you’re going to get 11 hits.”
One more delay: Several inches of snow doesn’t just disappear.
And with sunny weather, Maloney didn’t want to postpone another game.
Both the Michigan players and groundskeepers cleared off the remaining snow from the field to make it playable for yesterday’s game.
“The real story in this game is how hard we worked on this field,” Maloney said. “There was snow on this field until 1 o’clock, and we had to do everything we possibly could do to make this happen.”
Despite the short timetable, the field conditions barely hindered the game.
“There were a few wet spots out in the outfield,” VanBuskirk said. “For as much water as there was on the field and on the track before the game, they did a really good job of keeping it dry and getting ready to play.”
A different kind of hit: All season, Maloney has stressed the importance of keeping the number of “freebies” allowed to a minimum.
But yesterday, the Wolverine pitchers added to the problem.
Freshman pitcher Travis Smith and junior Ben Jenzen hit two batters each, Smith in the third and Jenzen in the fifth.
The pair of pitchers overcame their mistakes, allowing no runs, and Smith was able to get out of a bases-loaded jam by forcing a groundout.
“You’ve got to limit the freebies,” Maloney said. “We want to do three or under in nine innings.”