Senior pitcher Alan Oaks threw the first pitch of the year at the Ray Fisher Stadium on Friday afternoon as the Michigan baseball team kicked off its home opener in Ann Arbor. But Oaks wasn’t the only one who kept Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne swinging.
Michigan (12-9) swept the three-game series with help from its pitching staff. A total of 10 Wolverines took the mound over the course of the weekend. Oaks earned the 10-2 decision on Friday, pitching five innings and striking out five batters. Although he threw a strong 83 pitches, Oaks wasn’t as sharp as he has been, allowing both Mastodon runs.
“When you leave the ball up in the zone, anyone can hit it,” Oaks said. “And to give them credit, I missed a couple spots and they put good swings on it and got hits.”
But IPFW couldn’t defend against the powerful Michigan bats. Back-to-back doubles by senior first baseman Mike Dufek and senior outfielder Nick Urban gave the Wolverines a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Sophomore third baseman John Lorenz then pushed Urban across home plate with a single.
Sophomore designated hitter Coley Crank answered an IPFW run in the top of the third by launching a two-run homer — his sixth of the season and the first home run at home. Crank also extended his career-best hitting streak to eight games.
Michigan piled up the runs during the fourth and fifth innings to extend its lead to eight. Crank, Dufek, and senior catcher Chris Berset tallied a combined seven RBIs and four runs.
“You’ve just got to stay with your approach, just looking for good pitches to hit,” Berset said. “Luckily, I found some holes on some of them and hit a few balls.”
The hitting saga continued into Saturday as the Wolverines took 8-0 and 12-3 wins in their double-header. Freshman outfielder Patrick Biondi led the Michigan batters in game one by hitting a triple in the first inning. The others followed with four singles and a double by Berset to give the Wolverines a 4-0 advantage.
“I obviously had goals for myself,” Biondi said. “First and foremost, it was getting on base and setting the table for some of our bigger hitters. But I’ve been fortunate to hit some balls hard and get good results and hopefully I’ll stay to the plan and it’ll keep happening.”
A home run by Lorenz in the fourth inning blew the game open, giving Michigan an eight-run lead. Redshirt sophomore pitcher Bobby Brosnahan led the Wolverines on the mound by striking out a career-high eight batters while holding the Mastodons scoreless. Junior pitchers Tyler Burgoon and Kolby Wood both came in for relief, striking out five batters each in order to secure the shutout.
The final game of the series turned out to be a comeback win for Michigan. After scoring two runs in the first, the Wolverines had a momentary lapse in the second. Junior pitcher Matt Miller struggled on the mound, hitting a batter and giving up three runs to the Mastodons — two of which were home runs — giving IPFW a 3-2 lead. Despite a shaky start, Miller gained control and didn’t allow any more Mastodon runs.
“As far as Miller being where he wants to be or where we’d like him to be at this point, obviously that didn’t occur,” Maloney said. “But I feel like that before the last few outings he didn’t have a true out pitch and I thought he showed it. He struck out five guys, but he struck out three on balls to the dirt — with hard breaking balls to the dirt — which he hadn’t been able to earlier.”
The Wolverines scored one run each in the third and fourth innings, giving them a 4-3 lead. Michigan maintained its advantage for the rest of the game, extending the lead with a five-run rally in the end of the eighth.
Michigan extended its winning streak to a season-best six games in a row. The Wolverines may have finally found a productive combination of pitching and hitting in the same game.
“We only gave up five runs the whole weekend,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “We also only made one error all weekend and we had over 50 hits for the whole weekend. That’s three parts of the puzzle I think we did pretty well, so it was a solid weekend of baseball.”