MOUNT PLEASANT – With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the seventh inning, the Michigan baseball team had a great opportunity to erase a four-run deficit.
Fittingly, senior slugger Nate Recknagel grounded into a double play.
It was that kind of day for the Wolverines (14-7), who played poorly in all facets of a 7-3 loss to Central Michigan yesterday.
“It felt like a lack of enthusiasm today,” senior Leif Mahler said. “Everyone just seemed kind of dead. We didn’t really come ready to play today and it showed out there.”
But things didn’t start off so badly.
In the second inning, Michigan took a 3-0 lead. With the bases loaded, Mahler started the scoring with a two-run single to left field. A Central Michigan wild pitch scored another run.
“When we scored three there I thought we put ourselves in a good position,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “I thought we were going to play good baseball.”
But the Wolverines never did.
The Chippewas (9-15) came right back in the bottom of the second, scoring five runs after a leadoff walk. Maloney pulled starting pitcher Matt Miller after the freshman gave up four runs (two earned) in 1.1 innings. The two other runs resulted from an error by sophomore right fielder Alan Oaks, who misplayed a fly ball.
“When you have three runs, then turn around and give up five, that’s the kiss of death right there,” Maloney said. “We gave them two freebies and allowed them back in the game. It changed the whole complex of the game in a matter of a few moments.”
After Central Michigan did its damage in the inning, Michigan never responded. The Wolverines had their best chance in the seventh, when Chippewa pitcher Chris Kupillas seemed to be running out of gas. Freshman Ryan LaMarre, junior Kevin Cislo and senior Derek VanBuskirk started the inning with singles to load the bases in what looked like an opportunity to get back in the game.
But Recknagel hit a weak ground ball to third base that was converted into a double play, ending the last Wolverine threat of the game.
Perhaps the biggest concern for Maloney now is the lack of production at all levels of the game. The Wolverines gave up far too many “freebies” for his liking, giving up eight walks and committing three errors.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score today, and we didn’t do a lot of things,” Mahler said. “We didn’t play defense well and we gave up walks. We did all the things that we were trying to eliminate all year, all those mistakes.”
After Miller left the game, four other pitchers took the mound, none of whom managed to completely shut down Central Michigan. The Chippewas put men on base in all but the first inning.
“We beat ourselves – that’s the thing that’s hard to swallow,” Maloney said.