Senior catcher Chris Berset caught the foul tip off the bat of Eastern Michigan’s Daniel Russell for the third out of the eighth inning. He leaped out of his crouch, arms raised in exuberance.

Junior right-hander Tyler Burgoon had just worked out of a bases-loaded jam, ending the Eagles’ final significant threat to Michigan’s late-game lead, and coming one step closer to securing an 8-6 victory that the Wolverines hadn’t expected to be so tight.

Michigan (13-9) led by a comfortable margin for much of the game. The Eagles got on the board first with a controversial run in the opening inning when the runner was ruled safe after Beset appeared to block him from ever touching home. The Wolverines came back with four runs in the second inning and three in the third to take a 7-1 lead.

But the Eagles (10-15) never stopped fighting, posting a run in the fifth and four runs in the seventh to decrease their deficit to one. The Wolverines kept their composure on their home turf, though, and finished out a win that proved tougher than they had anticipated.

“Today, we survived,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “We had a chance to really get a knockout punch, and we didn’t do that. The good thing is we were able to battle through a few storms. Eastern kept battling, to their credit … but fortunately, we were able to come up the big out.”

And it was Burgoon who came through, picking up his second save of the season in the process. He was forced into action after the relief duo of junior right-handers Matt Miller and Kolby Wood struggled to maintain their team’s lead. The two combined to allow four earned runs in just 1.2 innings.

Burgoon was able to secure the win, but not without some drama of his own. The bases-loaded situation in the eighth was of his own doing, as he walked two Eagle batters and hit another.

Yet, with the Wolverines’ lead down to a precarious one run and the time ripe for a big out, the Defiance, Ohio native delivered.

“I think (Burgoon) showed some maturity there,” said Maloney. “Obviously, you wouldn’t have liked to walk those guys, but the flipside of it is he stayed the course. That’s a testament to him, and he didn’t want to come out. He said, ‘I’m staying in the game,’ so good for him. We needed him.”

Senior left-hander Eric Katzman (1-0, 5.40) took the mound initially for Michigan, starting his first game since offseason hernia surgery. He went just three innings, but Maloney said his short outing was due to the coaches’ desire to use him against an Indiana lineup this coming weekend whose two best hitters bat left-handed.

Katzman didn’t have his best performance yesterday, walking three and giving up an unearned run, but he benefitted from the Wolverines’ early offensive explosion, allowing him to pick up his first victory of the season despite the Eagles’ comeback.

“First start of the year, I felt great,” Katzman said. “And I couldn’t be back at a better time, since we are starting the Big Ten (season) on the weekend. Senior year, I want to get back pitching, starting on the weekends just like I did last year and the year before.”

Freshman shortstop Derek Dennis and senior outfielder Mike Kittle were two key offensive contributors for Michigan. Dennis rebounded from a rough 2-for-11 series against IPFW to come through with a 2-for-4, three-RBI day.

And Kittle had just one hit, but it was a big one. In the bottom of the seventh, after Eastern had scored four in the top of the frame, Kittle answered with a single to left field that drove in senior first baseman Mike Dufek and re-established the Wolverines’ momentum.

“I think our pitchers did well in the beginning,” Dennis said. “Towards the end they kind of gave up a few key hits. But we were solid defensively and (Kittle) came up with a big hit towards the end to give us the extra run advantage.”

The Big Ten season starts this weekend with a trip to Bloomington. With that, and the fact that the team lost so many close games earlier in the year, Michigan’s resiliency was a welcome sight.

“We hung on,” Maloney said. “Teams that win find a way to win. It was nice to see that we held on for victory here when it could’ve escaped us. (Eastern) gave us everything that we could handle and then some.”

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