EVANSTON – Players from both Michigan and Northwestern laid on the artificial turf yesterday afternoon in Northwestern’s practice facility as they traded jokes. Two hours had passed since Northwestern led 1-0 in bottom of the fourth inning, and the rain delay was about to become a canceled game.
Then the rain let up, and the Wolverines couldn’t have asked for anything better.
Junior Doug Pickens stepped up to the plate and crushed the first pitch after the interruption for a home run. The blast sparked an offensive outburst that resulted in eight combined home runs and a 14-7 win for Michigan, which completed a four-game sweep of the Wildcats.
“You have to stay loose during a rain delay,” said senior Brad Roblin, who added another homer post-stoppage.
Since they were already in Evanston, the Wolverines figured they might as well go out and win, Roblin said.
But it wasn’t as easy as the Wolverines hoped.
Sporting a comfortable 13-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, Michigan couldn’t seem to finish off Northwestern (0-4 Big Ten, 6-15 overall).
Wildcat senior Geoff Dietz hit a three-run home run over the leftfield wall. Although the fan favorite’s shot sparked comeback hopes in the ninth, he finished the game 1-for-4 with three strikeouts.
With the game getting tighter than expected in the ninth, sophomore Adam Abraham took the mound to close out the game. The first Wildcat batter Abraham faced grounded to shortstop Jason Christian, and Michigan turned a double play to end the game.
“I’m just glad they didn’t call the game,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “The crew chief wanted to call it. . I felt like if we played the whole game, we had a good chance.”
Michigan (4-0, 15-6) struggled through slow starts all weekend. Just 10 percent of the Wolverines’ total runs over the course of the weekend came in the first three innings.
With the score knotted at one in the Big Ten opener on Friday, freshman Chris Berset hit a home run. As in every game this weekend, Michigan used one big offensive play to ignite its bats.
“Chris Berset’s jack was big for us,” Maloney said. “When a freshman comes in and hits a jack like that everyone goes, ‘Woo.’ You know, it gets us over the top.”
Sophomore Zach Putnam showed why he’s Michigan’s ace, scorching opposing batters in all eight innings he pitched.
Although the Ann Arbor native would have liked to finish the game, Maloney wanted to save the sophomore’s arm for more difficult series later in the season. Putnam allowed just four hits and one run in his fourth win of the season.
With steady pitching throughout and the bats awake after Berset’s hit, the Wolverines won 7-1.
In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Michigan got the bats going in the third with two runs.
With a 7-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh, the game seemed to be a mirror image of Friday’s contest, and in more ways than just the score.
In both games, pitcher Andrew Hess struggled in the game’s final inning. Stopper Ben Jenzen was called in to get the save. With the tying runs on first and third and Northwestern’s power hitter, Antonio Mul