With a pivotal four-game series against Minnesota coming up this weekend, Michigan coach Rich Maloney would have loved to rest his bullpen against Eastern Michigan. Unfortunately, relaxation was not an option, as Maloney was forced to use seven hurlers in Michigan’s 11-9 win on Wednesday.
Craig Murray started for the Wolverines. He pitched three innings and surrendered just two hits. Despite the shutout performance by the freshman , he was pulled early because of the impending Minnesota series.
“He would have only pitched three innings if he had struck out all nine guys,” Maloney said. “He threw like 45 pitches, and we didn’t want him to throw any more.”
Matt Collins entered the game in the sixth inning and struggled with his control as he has all season long. He walked two batters in his inning of work and was fortunate to get out of the game yielding just one run. With runners on first and second in the sixth, Michigan third baseman Brock Koman snagged a hard liner and rifled the ball over to second to finish the double play. Collins escaped after giving up just one run, and gave way to freshman Jeff Niemiec who was making his college debut. Niemiec’s debut was not a memorable one, as he faced four batters and retired just one. Niemiec was charged with three runs, two of which were earned.
“We’re very inexperienced on the mound,” Maloney said. “We’ve got to pitch a lot of guys to get them experience. That’s just where we’re at.”
All of this inexperience may cost the Wolverines when they play a difficult Big Ten schedule. Will Michigan be able to hold a lead in the late innings? Who will Maloney call on in a tight spot when he needs outs?
“Right now I’d have to say Murray,” Maloney said. “But we’re going to go by pitcher-by-committee and see what happens.”
Freshman Derek Feldkamp was brought in to hopefully close out the game for the Wolverines, who were leading 8-6. With a 3.80 ERA, Feldkamp had been Maloney’s most reliable reliever on the season. But Feldkamp could not get the job done either. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning, but Luke Beeler launched another homerun to tie the game at 8-8 in the ninth.
Feldkamp was relieved by Ali Husain, Michigan’s seventh and final pitcher of the day. The sophomore surrendered one run on three hits as Michigan’s bullpen had relinquished what was once a five-run lead.
Fortunately for the bullpen, the Michigan bats bailed them out. Jordan Cantalamessa’s three-run-homerun gave the Wolverines an 11-9 victory.
Even though the bullpen has a long way to go, it feels it is improving.
“We’re young, and we know we have flaws, but we’re definitely making strides,” Husain said. “We’re ready for the challenges of the Big Ten.”
Minnesota comes to Ann Arbor this weekend for a four-game series with game one at 3 p.m. at the Fish today. Minnesota comes in boasting a 4-0 mark in the Big Ten thus far.
“They’re a real experienced team,” Maloney said. “I think we’re evenly matched hitting teams, but they have more experience on the mound.”