If it was only the first few innings dictated the whole game, the Michigan baseball team might have been in trouble this weekend.
But luckily, the offense came through late to secure a four-game sweep against Iowa.
Although the Wolverines’ pitching was the main factor in this weekend’s success, they didn’t always start the games the way they wanted.
Junior Chris Fetter started the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader by allowing three runs in the first three innings.
But after falling behind, the junior pitcher regained his composure and allowed no hits for the rest of the seven-inning game.
“Some guys would have lost it,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “Instead, I thought he got better and it’s really a testament to him and how he’s matured in his career.”
The Wolverines rewarded Fetter by scoring five runs in the fifth inning and giving him enough support for a 5-3 win.
But Fetter wasn’t the only pitcher struggling. Freshman Travis Smith had a rocky start in the second leg of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Hawkeyes, loading the bases with no outs in the first inning.
Despite allowing two runs, Smith regained his composure and held Iowa scoreless for his final five innings of work.
“For a freshman to be struggling early in that game and to settle into it the way he did says a lot about him,” Maloney said. “He’s been pitching really well. He’s not pitching like a freshman and it’s given the team a lift.”
The offensive players appreciated the pitching staff taking a load off their shoulders.
“Our pitchers battled the whole weekend,” sophomore Alan Oaks said. “They filled up the zone. They threw a lot of strikes, and I think their stuff was real nasty.”
Playing in the rain: Like most of the season, Michigan had to deal with the elements this weekend. But this time, it was a little different.
Instead of snow, the Wolverines played in the rain for much of the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader.
Play was suspended in the middle of the fifth inning for about 20 minutes before the weather settled down enough to resume the game.
“When the game was stopped, I was disappointed only because I’ve played in worse weather,” Maloney said. “I felt it was important that we try to get the games in.”
Michigan has already had trouble with the weather this season, missing games against Oakland and Bowling Green. Maloney said the number of wins, rather than winning percentage, will be key to his team’s postseason prospects.
“We want to gather wins,” he said. “We’re already down two games, weather-wise. Had you lost these games, you could have been down five or six, and that’s hard to make up.”
Battling from below: In a 5-3 comeback win Saturday, Michigan found a surprising spark to its five-run fifth inning.
Oaks started off the action with a single, but it was freshman Ryan LaMarre, batting eighth, and senior Leif Mahler, batting ninth, who came through with clutch hits to put Michigan in scoring position.
LaMarre and Mahler have .203 and .244 averages this season, respectively.
“Leif Mahler came up with a huge double,” Maloney said. “He, too, has been struggling, but he battled though it and gave his team a big lift with that one. Hitting is contagious and we got contagious in that inning.”