In Ray Fisher Stadium, pennants of each Big Ten school are displayed on flagpoles along the outfield wall in order of standings, from left to right. The Michigan pennant began the weekend flying in right field but jumped poles twice in two days, as this weekend”s four-game sweep of Indiana earned the home flag a spot in left-center and the team a fifth-place ranking in the conference. The top six teams qualify for the Big Ten tournament.
The sweep was the first Michigan has accomplished in two years and the first sweep at home in four. The Wolverines entered the series tied with Northwestern for ninth place, after being swept by Penn State last weekend. The Hoosiers were in eighth place, 1.5 games ahead of Michigan.
Our conference record was “down to 1-3 after Penn State, and we were struggling a little bit,” Michigan junior Mike Sokol said. “We set out to win all four games this weekend.”
Wolverine ace Bobby Korecky took the mound Friday for game one. He allowed five hits but no runs through eight innings, then took the mound with a six-run lead for what proved to be a challenging ninth.
An error was charged to first baseman Nate Wright on a hard-hit ball down the first-base line by second baseman Dan Heagele. Wright”s dropped ball allowed a run in from Indiana first baseman Gibran Hamdan, who had doubled to lead off the inning. Haegele took two bases on the error.
Shortstop Eric Blakeley then singled to right, driving in Haegele. Korecky managed his way out of the inning, completing the game without the aid of the bullpen.
On Saturday at Ray Fisher, the Michigan flag was hoisted on the third pole from the right, rather than the second, stating that the team had advanced into sixth place. The Wolverines overtook Illinois, which had lost to conference-leading Ohio State, and Michigan State. The Spartans had just dropped their Friday game to Minnesota.
To make the next shift across the centerfield wall to the third flagpole from the left the Wolverines would need to take both seven-inning games against the Hoosiers.
In game one, Michigan hurlers Nick Alexander, Bobby Wood and Jeff Trzos combined for the 11-7 win, in which there were four lead changes in the abbreviated game.
In game two, Tim Leveque pitched five shutout innings for the Wolverines. His ERA was lowered to 0.34, as he has now thrown 26.1-straight innings with only one earned run.
Sunday finally saw the home team”s pennant in leftfield, putting the Wolverines in fifth place in the Big Ten. Michigan was poised for the sweep, but got into early trouble as sophomore Rich Hill, in his first Big Ten start, gave up two runs in the top of the first.
In the bottom of the eighth, Wright more than made up for his fielding blunder that cost Korecky the shutout by driving in Jordan Cantalamessa and Brandon Jominy with a single to left. In the bottom of the tenth, Wright added his third RBI of the game to seal the sweep for Michigan.
Winning all four games “certainly helped,” Michigan coach Geoff Zahn said. “Coming in, we felt we had to take three out of four at least. Taking four out of four is much better.”
Michigan”s Big Ten record now stands at 5-3, good enough for fifth in the conference, just a half game behind Minnesota. The Wolverines will face the Golden Gophers in a four-game series beginning next Friday in Minneapolis. Michigan does not expect to sweep against its opponent. But each win pushes that flag farther towards leftfield.
Winning three of the games “would have been satisfactory, but only to a certain extent,” Michigan sophomore Mike Sokol said. “Getting four is going to give us a lift because we”re going to Minnesota. So this is going to give us some confidence going into Minnesota, because it”s going to be a battle next weekend.”