MINNEAPOLIS – From now on, the Michigan baseball team should know that no lead is safe and no deficit insurmountable.
In a crazy, unpredictable weekend, the team fell way behind, carried a comfortable lead and had a couple of close contests during its 3-1 series win over Big Ten powerhouse Minnesota.
Strangely enough, the Wolverines won the game in which they trailed by six, then blew the game in which they had a three-run lead.
Down 6-0, Michigan stormed its way back to an 8-6 victory on Friday. With momentum carrying over from the previous day, the team built a 5-2 lead and needed just one more out to take the first two games of the series.
But then something bizarre happened.
The Gophers appeared to have batted out of order with two outs. If a team is caught batting out of order, it must forfeit an out, which in this situation, would have ended the game. But, because Minnesota’s lineup card matched the umpire’s lineup card, the batter was ruled legal, and no out was recorded.
Minnesota then went on to score four runs with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, stealing a win from the Wolverines, 6-5.
Having orchestrated a huge comeback win in game two, the Gophers seemed to have all the momentum heading into the third game of the series.
“We basically stole one from them (Friday), and then they came back the very next game and stole one from us,” senior Paul Hammond said. “We had a three-run lead in extra innings, and for (Minnesota) to win that game put the pressure right back on us.”
It would have been easy for Michigan to fold under that pressure.
But the Wolverines did anything but collapse.
Following a complete-game shutout performance from redshirt freshman Chris Fetter against the Gophers in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader, junior Andrew Hess and freshman Adam Abraham combined to throw nine innings of shutout ball in Sunday’s finale to win the series three games to one.
“Our team has a lot of character,” said sophomore Nate Recknagel, who hit what proved to be a game-winning home run on Saturday, as well as Sunday’s game-winning double. “We showed that we can play in any situation – behind, ahead or close. We get the job done.”
Michigan looks forward to using some momentum of its own, after becoming the first team to beat the Gophers at home in a series since 2002. It couldn’t have come at a better time, since Michigan dropped three of four to Northwestern a week ago and battles Ohio State at home this weekend.
“I’m not even sure how many times Northwestern has won a series against Michigan,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “So that was a huge blow, especially knowing that we had an outstanding Minnesota team to play and knowing that we had Ohio State and Purdue to follow. We needed to do something like this.”
As far as the accomplishment of being the first team to win a series against the Gophers in Minneapolis since 2002, Maloney said, “The timing couldn’t have been better for us.”