Baseball in March is usually played in sunny states like Arizona and Florida – not Duane Banks Field in Iowa City, the place where the Michigan baseball team opened its Big Ten season against Iowa. The environment didn’t bother the Wolverines, though, as they took two of the first three games in a four-game series against the Hawkeyes.
Michigan and Iowa played two seven-inning games yesterday to make up the game postponed due to weather on Friday. While the Wolverines went about it in different ways each game, the result was the same. The doubleheader sweep yesterday moved Michigan (2-1 Big Ten, 10-10) back to a .500 record in the young season.
“We’re going to play games in inclement weather,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “We just have to tough it out. You know the other team is going through the same thing.”
Michigan’s bats struck early in the second game of the double-dip, scoring six runs in the first two innings of its 9-5 victory.
Senior second baseman Jordan Cantalmessa had a big day, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs. His first inning triple scored two runs and came sandwiched in between RBI singles by senior left fielder Mike Sokol and senior first baseman Nate Wright, respectively.
Sokol went 2-for-3 on the day with two RBI, his last one coming on a sac fly in the top of the second.
A run in the fifth inning on a Cantalamessa double followed by two more runs in the sixth gave junior pitcher Bobby Garza enough breathing room to go the complete game, allowing seven hits and five runs.
An RBI single in the sixth by junior catcher Jake Fox pushed his hitting streak to 16 games, currently the longest on the team.
“Jake is one of the best hitters around and truly a joy to watch,” Maloney said. “I think he’s one of the most prolific power hitters in college right now.”
In the first game, Michigan got just what it’s been missing all season. Sophomore Michael Penn pitched a gem, tallying eight strikeouts and allowing just four hits in the complete game, 4-0 shutout.
Penn (1-3) was rarely even threatened in his first win on the season. The closest Iowa came to scoring was off of left fielder Lance Guyer’s triple in the second inning. He was thrown out at home trying to score on a passed ball.
“It was great to finally get my first win,” Penn said. “It was great to finally get the monkey off my back. I got good support throughout the whole game.”
Penn got all his help in the first two innings. Fox singled home sophomore shortstop Nick Rudden in the first inning to start the scoring. In the top of the second, senior center fielder Gino Lollio doubled down the right field line to score two runs. Lollio later scored on a Nick Rudden single to right.
The Wolverines dropped their first game of the Big Ten season in Saturday’s 9-6 loss to the Hawkeyes. The cold Midwestern weather that postponed Friday’s game matched the second inning for Michigan: ugly.
Sophomore pitcher Drew Taylor struck out the side in his first inning of work, but wasn’t so lucky the rest of his short day. After loading the bases with one out, a fielding error by Koman allowed a run to score. The Hawkeyes capitalized on the miscue, knocking out two singles on first-pitch deliveries from Taylor.
Taylor proceeded to surrender a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly before designated hitter Chris Steele ended Taylor’s short day with a two-RBI double to right center.
Iowa’s 7-0 lead was enough to put down Michigan for good. Pitcher Reed Pawelk allowed only one extra base hit to the volatile Wolverine offense in his seven innings of work.
Michigan did chip away at the lead, aided by Sokol’s two RBI. Koman, however, had his 17-game hitting streak snapped, going 0-for-4 in the game.
Sophomore pitcher Phil Tognetti will get his first start of the year today against the Hawkeyes following a great relief performance against Central Michigan last week.
“We’re hoping he can keep them down,” Maloney said. “But the reality is that the fourth game of a series is usually a high scoring affair, so we’ll see what happens.”