Even 10 months later, it still stings.
The pain of last season’s 6-5 Big Ten Tournament loss to Penn State at Ray Fisher Stadium lingers for the Michigan baseball team. It was the Wolverines’ fourth to the Nittany Lions at home in 2007, and it endangered their chances of gaining an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“It hurts any time you lose four of five,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “You have to tip your hat off to them. They whooped us pretty good.”
This afternoon, Michigan will get its chance at payback when it faces Penn State (2-2 Big Ten, 8-14 overall) in State College.
But the Wolverines aren’t dwelling on the past.
“Certainly we want to beat them,” Maloney said. “As far as the revenge factor goes, that’s water under the bridge.”
The Wolverines (4-0, 14-7) lead the Big Ten after sweeping Iowa last weekend. But inconsistency has plagued Michigan all season, the team failed to keep form in a 7-3 loss at Central Michigan Wednesday.
For the Wolverines to rebound against Penn State, they will need to score runs early. Although the Nittany Lions average just 4.5 runs per game and have a .260 batting average, they have one of the best pitching staffs in the Big Ten. Junior Drew O’Neil leads the Penn State bullpen, and Maloney calls him the best closer in the conference.
“It’s important for us to get a lead and just take what we get,” Oaks said.
Normally, Maloney shoots for his team to score at least six or seven runs per game, but against Penn State, he thinks five might be enough.
But lately, even putting up a handful of runs has been difficult. Michigan averaged just 4.2 runs in its last six games, the same average it had against Penn State last year.
“Sooner or later, we have to break out of this thing,” Maloney said.
Michigan points to a lack of energy as the culprit for its poor batting.
“It starts in the dugout and locker room, and it carries out onto the field,” junior Zach Putman said. “If we can find a way to get everyone excited for the game, it will be a good weekend.”
Michigan shouldn’t have too much trouble getting pumped to play after what happened last year.
“This weekend, we need to come in with extra focus and determination and realize we need to take it to them because last year, they took it to us,” Oaks said.