Posts by formerlyanonymous
[Ed: Also on the site: Barry Larkin's press conference.]
For Ohio State week, We get to have a bit more "vicious" in the vicious electronic questioning. Not only is Chris Webb, of Buckeye State Baseball and the BuckeyeNine, one of the bloggers who has been around for a while, but he's also one who I keep up with on a near daily basis during the season. So the familiarity breeds comfort with making fun of him and the Buckeyes in such a public space.
So without further adieu, let's get to the Q&A:
Describe your season in 3 sentences.
Rocky but expected. It's better to be 3 words than 3 sentences. Was told if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything. Whoops that is 3 sentences after all.
Plead the fifth.
Yeah, I'm sure losing to a pair of teams with a total of ZERO scholarship athletes has to be rough. So glad Ohio State could show us that.
What's the chances of Alex Wimmers making me post pictures of otters on Friday? We're not going to be no-hit again are we? [Ed: con't after the jump.]
Slim. Obviously as you know no-nos are rare. But expect another complete game with 13 K's while allowing 6 hits and a run, ok with your team it could be 19 strikeouts. While it is hard to root for the opposition here, baseball fans should sit back and enjoy the talent that is Wimmers. He'll go in the first 25 picks in June and truly is one of the top 5 draft-eligible pitchers in college baseball. Pomeranz, Sale, Ranando, and McGuire incase you were wondering. Honorable mention to Hahn, Hutlzen, and Grimm.
Okay, so looking past Wimmers, is Rucinski falling apart? Does Michigan have anything to fear in Wolosiansky?
No and no. Rucinski is fighting a nasty series of blisters which the Columbus Dispatch ran on Friday, before the 10-run two-inning outing, so it's a legit issue. I'm not sure how if/how he will be used this weekend but he's a bulldog and will want to take the rubber.
Wolosiansky is the latest in a long line of Buckeye pitchers to regress as their time increases in Columbus. He has always pitched with an uneasy BAA/WHIP but somehow was able to pile up 18 wins, 11 with a 6+ ERA in 2009. I think the baseball Gods have a way of evening things out.
Eric Best has come back from off season shoulder surgery. Is he back to his A-game? How is he being used this season?
No and who knows. While his velocity is almost back, he's sitting upper 80s (87-88, he was 91-92 prior) his stuff isn't there, and it might be more mentally than physically.
Best is a guy with a HUGE ceiling entering his freshman year, he had a very solid rookie campaign and things went south. He was juggled from closer to rotation, overused, a labrum surgery later he's probably had enough of the on-goings in Columbus. Not to say he isn't giving 100%, I'm sure he is, but it would be had for me at least to take instruction from coaches who seemingly have set your career in reverse. Who knows what his role is. I wouldn't be shocked at all if he pitches once out of the pen, twice, three times, starts,closes, is long relief. He has done all of the above this season. I personally would have him as the #3 starter.
Minium. Good closer? Bad closer? Are he and Best your only relievers? How can your bullpen survive with so few pitchers?
Minium is surprisingly one of the few pitchers to actually improve during his tenure. He isn't good, but he isn't bad (last year he was badddd posting a WHIP north of 2.50) best scenario is in a 2 inning outing he'll give up a run.
Freshman Brett McKinney also comes from the pen and usually is the second guy out after Best, and Jared Strayer who is coming back from a minor knee injury is also there. To be honest and fair, Ohio State has always used just 8 or 9 pitchers, even when they were good in '05 an '06 when they had team ERA's right at 3.50 eight pitchers each season threw 99% of all innings. Todd likes a lighter staff than normal. Which you can see here
Oh, dropping stats now are we? I thought I was the one you had to bring on board for statistical work at your site. Speaking of that stat post, I still don't understand why on Earth Hurley bats lead off?
Its a role he enjoys first, and secondly he does a pretty good job there. It does take away a power bat, but with Ohio State, he might actually be better hitting behind the lower half which has Cory Rupert, Brian DeLucia and Tyler Engle getting on base, than in a 3 or 4 hole. He's getting on base at a .453 clip, his 38 runs leads the team, so he's getting on and getting in as a leadoff hitter should. He's also led off 7 of the last 9 games with a base hit, a very impressive feat.
Just the results of being a veteran team. The guys are patient and will wait for their pitch. They know they have talent and can put the ball in play, just a matter of getting their pitch and stroking it.
Who else do Michigan fans need to be leery of this weekend?
Michael Stephens and DeLucia in the outfield with Hurley. Ohio State hasn't had a three-headed monster in the outfield for the last 6 seasons going back to Drew Anderson, Christian Snavely, and Mike Rabin and such.
Have the Buckeyes solidified their defense yet? I notice Hallberg has basically been benched indefinitely.
Yeah Hallberg's bat has cooled off to the point where it can no longer overcome the fielding woes. Ryan Dew may appear at first in a game to spill Streng. Rupert seems to be recovered from a nagging hamstring injury that hindered his mobility and range earlier in the year.
Going to be in Ann Arbor this weekend?
Unsure. I'm fighting an urge to head to the derby.
If yes, what will you be wearing so I can point you out to all our readers so they can heckle you as much as they do your players.
Only if you're readers are 20-23 blonde hair, green eyed, tanned and 127 pounds. But no, I'll probably be in the press box if I go... but still ladies 614-70...
As if the women of Ann Arbor would be interested in a future journalist, much less a Buckeye. We don't take kindly to "hack journalist" in these parts.
But on the subject of women, are you enjoying Michigan's soon-to-be sweep of Ohio State in softball live on the BTN as much as I? WE'VE GOT THE MOMENTUM! Well, it's coming at least.
Who cares. Texas A&M has the finest softball team in the country. And I mean finest.
That's fighting words. Totally true, but still…
Predictions for the weekend?
Buckeyes take 2-1. I can't go against Wimmers on a Friday, and our guys owe Michigan, not that a no-hitter doesn't do the job, a lighting of the scoreboard after the previous four seasons prior to 2009. I wouldn't be shocked if Sunday was an 14-11 game. I do seem to remember a 26-run game somebody put on somebody earlier this year. (And no not Michigan State-Iowa)
Beat the Buckeyes.
This weekend's critical series against Big Ten co-leaders Ohio State has a side story that deserves just as much attention as a battle for the Big Ten title. Michigan's greatest shortstop, Barry Larkin, will have his number 16 jersey retired on Saturday afternoon.
Barry was born in Cincinnati in 1964, a city that he would forever be tied to. He grew up and attended Moeller High School, a great school in Ohio sport history. It produeced not just Larkin, but Ken Griffey, Jr., and someone many Michigan fans hold dear: Gerry Faust. At Moeller, Larkin set the school record for batting average for a career at .482, hitting 12 triples and 11 homers, stealing 26 bases.
He would win the team MVP as a senior in 1982 and was drafted in the 2nd round by the hometown Cincinnati Reds. Larkin chose not to sign with the Reds however, and instead enrolled at the University of Michigan to play football. Yes, football. Following the 1982 season, he informed then coach Bo Schembechler that he would also be trying out for the baseball team. That was the last time Larkin would be part of the football team, as he became a regular immediately on the baseball squad.
On the diamond, Larkin made an immediate impact. The 1983 season would see Larkin named the Big Ten Tournament player of the year and make Baseball America's Freshman First Team. That season was also a College World Series for the Wolverines. In game one against Maine, Larkin had two doubles in a 6-5 win. Michigan would ultimately be eliminated by Texas in the semi-final. Michigan's final record was 50-9, the highest winning percentage by any Wolverine team ever.
That wasn't Larkin's last trip to Omaha. [Ed: continued after the jump.]
In 1984, Larkin would earn his first Big Ten Player of the Year honors; Michigan would win second Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. Michigan again made the College World Series, but this one didn't finish quite as well. Michigan was swept out in two games, losing to Cal State Fullerton 8-4 after a suicide squeeze play was incorrectly ruled in favor of CSF. The the inning opened the floodgates. In their second game, Michigan was crushed by the University of New Orleans to close out a 43-20 season.
Larkin finished the year leading the team in batting average at .363. He was named an All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association. This would also be his first All-Big Ten shortstop selection. He would also be honored with the Ted Sizemore Award for Michigan's top defensive player and the Bill Freehan Award for Michigan's top hitter.
Barry's 1985 season would be his last, and his most productive, hitting .368. Michigan would post their highest win total ever with 55 but they would fall in the South Regional just short of the College World Series. Despite that, Barry was a consensus All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association, Baseball America, and the Sporting News. He also gained his second Big Ten Player of the Year award, becoming the first ever to accomplish the feat twice. He would also win his third straight All-Big Ten Tournament honors despite Michigan losing 2 of three games to be eliminated and place third. With that type of season, it's no wonder he won the Ray L. Fisher Award for the Michigan Team MVP.
That would be his last season at Michigan:
Larkin still ranks among the top 10 in five different single-season categories at Michigan. He is tied for second in triples (8), fifth in home runs (16) and fourth in total bases (150) while ranking third in runs scored (72) and fifth in runs batted in (66). His three-year career is one of the best for any Wolverine, ranking in the top 10 of five career offensive categories -- third in triples (13), fifth in runs scored (172), seventh in slugging percentage (.590), ninth in stolen bases (44) and 10th in total bases (332).
Concluding the 1985 season, Larkin was drafted again, this time with the fourth overall pick by his hometown Reds. This time, Barry moved on. He immediately joined the AA Vermont Reds of the Eastern League. There he would join fellow Michigan alumnus Chris Sabo, a pair that would hold down the left side of the Cincinnati Reds infield for years.
After just a year and a half in the minors (including a AAA MVP season), Larkin made the jump to the Reds at the end of the 1986 season. Larkin was called up in the aftermath of Big Red Machine shortstop Jose Concepcion's move to the disabled list. After a short position battle, won the shortstop role permanently by season's end.
Larkin was an NL All-Star in 1988, a season that saw him hit .296 and steal 40 bases. This would be his first of four straight All-Star games. On top of that, he struck out a major league low 24 times (in 652 at bats). He spent part of 1988 on a tour with other American all stars in Japan, where he hit .474 as the Team USA MVP.
In 1989, Larkin was poised to be a huge breakout star. Batting .340 at the All-Star break, Larkin injured his elbow in a skills competition. His season was all but finished there. In 1990, upon his return to the lineup, he still had some lingering scar issues in the elbow, particularly in the cold weather games early in the season, but it didn't affect his season. He was back to hitting over .300 with 30 steals and 67 RBI. More importantly, this was the first World Series championship season for Larkin. The Reds beat the Oakland A's in a sweep.
Larkin continued to roll as one of the MLB's top shortstops over the next few years, earning a 5-year, $25.6 million contract in 1991. His career peaked with a spectacular 1995 season. Barry hit .319 with 51 stolen bases and 15 home runs. That would be good enough to earn Larkin the National League MVP award. In Barry's own words:
I consider myself an amoeba man. I'll assume any shape to help the team. If the team needs someone to lead by example, I do that. If it needs someone to steal, I do that. If it needs someone to bunt or move a runner from second to third, I do that.
To follow that up, Larkin became the first MLB shortstop to join the 30-30 club (30 homers, 30 steals in a single season) in 1996. He totaled a career high 33 homers, 36 stolen bases, a career high in runs scored (117), and a career high 89 RBI while batting .298 on the season.
The following seasons saw a mix of injuries and trade rumors. The Reds were dropping out of contention and looking to develop younger talent while saving money. Larkin stuck around despite making a few comments about wanting to be traded to a winner, but that never happened. Barry would finish his career in Cincinnati, retiring after the 2004 season.
Larkin ended his career with 2340 hits, 198 homers, 441 doubles, 379 steals, and a career .295 batting average. His fielding was also impeccable, finishing with a fielding percentage of .975 at shortstop and 3 NL Gold Gloves.
Since his retirement, Barry has remained involved in the game. He worked as a "special assistant to the general manager" for the Washington Nationals from 2005-2008, and has recently worked as a commentator on the MLB Network. He and Sean Casey also acted as guest instructors at Reds spring training this season, looking "in shape enough to play."
Away from the MLB, Larkin has built the Champions Sports Complex in Orlando that provides a home to several sports including baseball, soccer, volleyball, football, and lacrosse.
He also helped create the Champions Sports Foundation
to harness the power of sport and use it to successfully develop the youth in America by targeting their social, emotional, and educational needs. The Foundation was established as the premier safe haven for the total development of young people through the authority of sport.
To help fund the foundation, Larkin sends 100% of the proceeds of B-Lark Merlot, a wine out of Healdsburg, California go toward the foundation.
Larkin has been inducted into several Hall of Fames so far, including the Cincinnati Reds', The Michigan Hall of Honor, and the College Baseball Hall of Fame. It's only a matter of time until he makes the big time. In his first MLB Hall of Fame ballot, he fell short, collecting only 51.6% of the votes necessary. With the next few classes of first-time ballot players, Larkin will probably make the MLB Hall of Fame within the next 2-3 years. Not making it would be a shock.
Barry's Michigan retirement ceremony will be held Saturday at 5:45p. Gates open at 5p and Michigan will host the Buckeyes with a 6:12p first pitch.
Side Note: Derek Dennis's status is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
With half of the Big Ten regular season complete, it's time to take a look at the conference to see where Michigan is and what it will take to get a good seed in the Big Ten Tournament. In this post, we'll walk through the series we've already completed and then look at the opponents we still have on the schedule.
So, for all you late comers to the baseball season, here's what you need to know.
Where We've Been
|Wild and crazy high scoring affair as it goes back and forth |
after Michigan was all but dead early. Dufek wins it in the
10th with a RBI double. Two bench clearings. Crazy.
|Brosnahan is sporadic but his emotion carries him through |
for the win in a well pitched game by both teams. Michigan's
early lead is enough to get by.
|Katzman makes the start and can't get through the first. Yours |
truly quits the game early as Michigan was down 17.
For as exciting and tense as the first two games of the series
While not much has changed in terms of outlook, Indiana hasn't turned out just as good as I expected either. They've been quite inconsistent, with their top hitters going ice cold the weak after they torched us. That freeze of course happened against Ohio State, giving the Buckeyes a pretty easy 2-1 series victory. They did sweep Iowa, though, something Michigan couldn't do.
|Alan Oaks continued to struggle and Michigan could do nothing |
with Purdue's Matt Bischoff in the loss.
|Big inning early and a solid Brosnahan start allows Michigan to |
coast to a victory with Burgoon locking down the 8-9th.
|Brandon Sinnery gets his first start and makes good. A 7-run |
4th inning caps off Ryan LaMarre's POTW winning series.
Michigan is going to continue to make decent to good pitchers
The loss to Bischoff is still nothing to worry about. It really would have helped for Michigan to get a sweep. Ohio State isn't on their schedule, but I'm not sure if that helps or hurts us. Purdue may be able to steal a game from the Buckeyes, or they may get blown out in all three.
|Alan Oaks is back! 8 innings of great pitching and the offense |
explodes for 17 runs? We're rolling.
|The bats fall asleep and Brosnahan has his shaky start that |
should be good enough for a win. Bad defense doesn't help.
|After 3 ugly innings by both teams, Tyler Burgoon steps in and |
shuts down the Illini for Pitcher OTW honors. Offense explodes
late, sparked by POTW Patrick Biondi.
2-1 series win over a BTT contender will work. We really had
Things haven't changed much here in a week. Illinois lost 2 of 3 at Michigan State, which means the Spartans are just keeping pace with us.
|Jarred Hippen is really good. He overshadowed anything |
Michigan related in this game.
|Due to rain in the forecast, it was a double header, & Hippen |
momentum carried right through game 2. Michigan grabbed an
early lead then blew a big inning. Brosnahan's luck runs dry.
|Michigan jumps ahead and, for the most part, stays ahead. |
Offense finally shows up late in the game.
1-2 isn't going to cut it. Losing one to Iowa in the Hippen
That happened. Nothing has happened in our season and it still stings. I can't wait for this weekend to come so I can get it out of my head. Plus, the Buckeyes did us a favor losing a home series to Penn State just so we could keep pace.
After the jump, we look at the present and then haphazardly predict the future.
Where We Are Now
The Big Ten is a cluster. No team has run away with anything, and even the teams at the top haven't been able to secure a sweep. With so many teams at the top right now, it's not even worth going into too many tie breakers. The only ones I'll note for now are OSU>MSU and OSU>NU. With 8 teams within 2 games and all ten teams within 3 games, I'll leave it up to you to check out the head-to-head results.
Where We're Headed
Ohio State (7-5): This series could be epic. Ohio State's pitching after Alex Wimmers has hit a new low, gaining negative articles from the newspaper (GASP! NEGATIVE OSU ARTICLES! THAT NEVER HAPPENS!) and a scathing review of how Bob Todd runs his pitching into the ground from the BuckeyeNine. The Buckeye offense isn't anything to scoff at, but the team just doesn't have it's head on straight at the moment, as evidenced by the home series loss to Penn State. Don't expect that to be the problem next week. They'll come to Ann Arbor focused, and Alex Wimmers will look to continue where he left off last year, throwing a no hitter against Michigan on the BTN. If we can get past him, we have a decent chance on Saturday and Sunday.
@Minnesota (6-6): Like much of the middle of the Big Ten, no one can really make heads or tails of the Gophers. They have a lot of talent on their team both at the plate and on the mound, but they just find new and interesting ways to both win and lose. They'll win one game of a series 9-1, then lose the next two 14-2 and 2-1. The next week, scramble those scores around. No consistency. One day, the best team in the Big Ten, the next the worst.
@Northwestern (7-5): The Wildcats are anchored by some quality starting pitching and has found a bit more offense this year than years past. The consensus is they aren't very good, but every time there's been a consensus, they break our mold and take two of three from Minnesota or Purdue, two other teams that no one can really peg as good or bad. I guess that was to be expected from a team that was labeled a dark horse contender in the pre-season.
Penn State (4-8): The Nittany Lions have a pretty solid offense, but their pitching depth is probably one of the weakest in the Big Ten. Their starters have struggled most of the season, but they managed to hold just solid enough this last weekend to hold off Ohio State for a series win. Much will change before we see them to close out the regular season, but they probably won't be making too much noise in the meantime.
Last year, I took a look at our competition for the final Big Ten Tournament spot. This year, it's not so easy to figure out what Michigan is aiming for, much less who to limit as our direct competition. Almost every team is still in contention for 1st place at this point. I'll caveat this with a note from last year's similar post:
Baseball is a funny sport sometimes, and weird things can happen. Teams can get hot or cold with the flip of a switch. So take these as you may, this is just my guess as of today.
With that in mind, here's what I see the final standings looking like:
This assumes no rain outs, something I'm not sure has ever happened in a Big Ten regular season. It also assumes tie breakers from head to head matchups, some of which that haven't happened yet. First thing I think to myself after making these projections: man, lay off the Kool-aid. The more I look at it, the more I want to have us tied with Ohio State at 15-9, but dammit, I'm not giving them the pleasure this week. And as a side note, picking winners in any series featuring any team from Purdue to Illinois was nearly impossible.
In this scenario, Michigan would face the lowest seeded winner of Purdue vs Northwestern and Indiana vs Michigan State. Just looking at the teams making the BTT in my projection, dear god we need the bye. First round pitching match ups are going to be insane.
With all of that in mind, my predictions have been less than stellar this season, unlike last year at VarsityBlue where I was hitting about 85%. This year is quite a bit closer to the Mendoza Line (.200).
That leaves us with just one more note:
Beat Ohio State
About being back… not so much. (image from MGoBlue)
If you would have asked me what the worst case scenario would be walking into the Iowa series, my answer would have been Jarred Hippen throws a complete game in the first half of the double header, and that momentum would carry Iowa through game two for Michigan to be swept on Friday. I would have then said that rain would cancel Saturday's game for the first Iowa sweep of Michigan in Ann Arbor in recent memory. Unfortunately, the first half of that prediction came true.
Luckily, Saturday had only overcast skies and Michigan was able to redeem themselves (somewhat) by salvaging a 1-2 weekend. Michigan exits the series half a game back of the Big Ten leading Buckeyes, who visit Ann Arbor next week. That's right people, it's HATE WEEK for the baseball team.
But before we get to that, we look at the Iowa series. Recaps after the jump:
L - Oaks(4-5)
When Michigan isn't facing Iowa, I'm about the biggest Jarred Hippen promoter there is. When he played Texas, I was over at BurntOrangeNation talking him up. When it's come to discussing how the Big Ten would shape up this year, Iowa's capsule was Hippen, Hippen, Hippen. The sophomore lefty is just that good, and that was plain to see in the 2009 Michigan loss at his hands. This year, it was no different.
Hippen threw the complete game for Iowa, spreading 6 hits out over the nine innings. He walked just three, and struck out five. Of the two runs Michigan scored, only one would be earned. That earned run came in the first on a sacrifice fly, and that's not even like he was being hit hard.
The lone other Michigan run came after Hippen rushed a dribbler back to him. Biondi short hopped it back and Hippen couldn't make a play and Kittle would score on what should have been the third out of the inning. If Hippen made any mistakes this game, it was that play alone.
For Michigan, Alan Oaks was just the opposite of Hippen, slipping back to his form from two weeks ago. He would give up a walk, single, and another walk to open the game. The next batter would send a swinging bunt half way between Oaks and Berset. Berset fielded it as Oaks wasn't in position to make the play. In a race back to the plate for the force, Iowa's Muller would win the race. Oaks hit the next batter to force in another run, and Matt Gerbe was up in the bullpen.
Oaks managed to get out of the inning, but he continued to struggle in the second. He would give up a hard single up the middle, and after a sacrifice bunt, Zach McCool, who had a hell of a game in his own right, would also single up the middle to put up Iowa 3-1. I thought Oaks was out here, but he came back out for the 3rd. This time, he gave up a lead off double to the left center wall. That was all he would see.
Matt Gerbe came in there, inducing a ground out and fly ball, but those were enough to get the 4th Iowa run in (charged to Oaks). That was pretty much it for Iowa for the rest of the game. Gerbe threw a great 4 innings, allowing just 3 hits and a walk for zero runs.
But Gerbe's effort was all for naught, as Hippen and Iowa's defense just shut Michigan down. It was just that kind of night, as evidenced by Dufek being robbed of a home run. The right fielder scaled the wall in right, perfectly in stride, jumps, pulls it back in over the yellow line. The baseball gods were just against us.
Also worth noting, Kittle and Toth each had 2 hits, representing 2/3rds of Michigan's offensive effort. Toth also had an error (playing shortstop) and left two on base, enough to keep him off the stars list.
Speaking of which:
- Matt Gerbe – 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K
- Mike Kittle – 2/4, R
- Michigan's 4-6 Hitters – 0/11. Berset's 21 game hit streak broken.
- Nick Urban – 0/3, 3 K (hat trick)
- Alan Oaks – 5 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 3 K. 90 pitches, 49 strikes.
L – Brosnahan (4-4)
The last few weeks, I've pushed the stance that Brosnahan has been a bit more lucky than he has been great. The fifth inning today encapsulates why I've taken that stance. Brosnahan continually gives up ample numbers of base runners, particularly via the walk, but up until Friday, he had avoided the big inning.
That streak halted with two outs in the fifth. After giving up a two walks and a RBI single, Iowa had runners at second and third (they advanced on a throw home) and two outs. A hit by pitch loaded the bases, and with a full count, Iowa's right fielder Durant doubled down the line, his second RBI-producing double of the game. The full count had the runners going with the pitch and all three runners would score. That gave Iowa a 3 run lead and all the momentum they would need.
Kolby Wood thre three solid innings, giving up 4 hits and striking out five, Burgoon gave up a hit in the ninth, but struck out two.
If there was any bright spot to the second game, it came from Ryan LaMarre and Coley Crank. Both went 3/4 with Crank knocking a homer. The rest of it was ugly. Including that second homer saving catch by Iowa's right fielder, his second such rob of the day. This one might have been a bit more borderline on going over the fence, but it was just a punctuation of Michigan's offensive ineptitude.
- The Bullpen – 4 IP, 5 H,
- Ryan LaMarre – 3/4, R, 2B, 3B
- Coley Crank – 3/4, R, 2 RBI, HR
- Mike Dufek – 0/4, 3 K (hat trick), 3 LOB
- Michigan 8-2 hitters – 0/16, 5 K, including 0/5, 3 K by Biondi and Toth each.
W – Burgoon (6-1)
Courtesy of Boyz n da Pahokee
With the weather holding off, Michigan went to right the ship in game three, and it took quite a bit to ensure that. Brandon Sinnery had an alright start, but definitely wasn't as sharp for the second week in a row. Over his four innings of work, he gave up 8 hits, but he managed not to walk anyone. Even the hits Sinnery gave up were pretty light – little choppers through the holes, infield singles, and the like.
At the same time, Michigan wasn't necessarily clicking on all cylinders, but they did get two monster hits. Mike Dufek knocked his second homer of the season in the 2nd, and Ryan LaMarre hit a no doubter in the 3rd to get a early lead. There would be no robbed homers today.
Iowa cut into the lead in the 4th on a pair of singles, the latter leading to an errant throw to third. The ball got away from Lorenz and lead to the first Hawkeye run. The Hawkeyes would get another run in the 5th to tie the game. Sinnery gave up a lead off double, the first hard hit ball of the afternoon, and would be removed for Tyler Burgoon.
Burgoon wasn't quite as on as he has been this season, but he still pitched a pretty good 5 innings. He couldn't get us out of that 5th inning without giving up a run as he gave up a single, then a run scoring double play groundout.
So with the the game tied at 2, the offense finally woke up, with a little help from the Hawkeye defense. To lead off the inning, Biondi would reach on an error by the shortstop. After LaMarre would have 3 pitches thrown at him, including a fastball buzzing his head, the Iowa pitcher finally hit LaMarre with a curveball. Berset made Iowa pay, lacing a double to right.
Two batters later, Crank lines one to right. The right fielder dove for the catch and came up empty, allowing the ball to roll all the way to the wall. That leads to the big man rumbling all the way to third for a triple. Lorenz would then knock him in with a single for a 4-run inning.
But things didn't end here. Burgoon ran into trouble the next inning. After giving up a single and walk to start the inning, he'd get two quick outs and hit a batter, although not in retaliation (fastball just nicked the leg of the batter). That brought up Iowa's lead off hitter Muller who singled up the middle, bringing the score to just 6-4.
Then came the Iowa bullpen I had so desperately missed over the weekend. Urban immediately welcomed them with his first hit since returning to the lineup, knocking a double down the left field line. After being sacrificed over, Toth would double down the right field line for the crucial insurance run. At this point, the momentum was completely gone from any Hawkeye comeback.
Burgoon would give up a solo home run after that, but the outcome was never in doubt. Michigan would win 7-5.
- Ryan LaMarre – 4/4, 2 R, 1 RBI, HR
- Chris Berset – 2/4, RBI, R, 2 2B
- Coley Crank – 2/4, R, 2 RBI, 3B
- Nick Urban – Error throwing to third, which scored the run
Obviously this was a huge let down to drop the series. Unfortunately, the worst case scenario for Friday happened. I kind of had a feeling it might, but I assumed it was just my normal pessimism. It wasn't. I'm not sure if there's specific blame any one can place. I'd call it a team effort. The leadership both of players on the field and coaches couldn't pick it back up in game two, and that's just something that has to be treated differently next time we face a double header.
I could have been totally fine winning two of three in this series if we had only lost the first game against Hippen. There's no shame in losing to a pitcher like Jarred, but dropping the second game, I think there's cause for concern. Luckily, as to this moment, Ohio State has already lost one to Penn State, so Michigan won't fall too far behind them, if at all. In no way should anyone expect Ohio State to lose tomorrow, but weirder things have happened.
Alan Oaks also gets some space down here. He was not on. I don't know what happened, but he's better than that. We need his A game next week as Michigan faces Alex Wimmers opposite himself. Alan is a competitor, and hopefully the step up in opposition will see him step up his own game. We can't afford to fall behind Ohio State early.
Derek Dennis sat out the entire weekend. When the Daily asked about it on Wednesday, Maloney gave the line about "resting him". After sitting the whole weekend, one wonders if there isn't something else going on. Perhaps an injury? Perhaps just a few too many strikeouts? I'm pretty sure we'll see him back on the field sometime this season.
In Dennis's absence, Anthony Toth has slid back to shortstop and Mike Kittle has entered the lineup at second base. No arguments here as Kittle is definitely hitting just as consistently if not more consistently than anyone on the team not named Berset or LaMarre.
Speaking of freshmen, Patrick Biondi had his worst weekend of the season against Iowa. His average dropped almost .030 over the weekend as he went 0/11. There's no better way to describe Michigan's offensive woes this weekend than that. Friday's game is somewhat understandable, as the left handed Biondi faced the lefty Hippen. The next two games, well, let's just hope it was a minor slump.
Michigan has no mid-week opponent as the guys are in finals week. That means this weekend's opponent, conference leader Ohio State becomes the focus. This next weekend will be huge for final conference standings, plus there are several interesting side stories like the retirement of Barry Larkin's jersey. Also, because this is the half way point of the Big Ten Regular Season, I'll have a post or two this week dissecting the big picture. Busy week. Hate-filled week.
Beat the Buckeyes.
Michigan took two games against a weak opponent that is still looking to wake the echoes and return to glory from their days when Paul Mainieri, current coach at LSU, was still in South Bend. In Notre Dame's first visit to Ann Arbor since 1977, Michigan won a closely contested game, and the next night, the Wolverines pounded out a huge win.
Abbreviated midweek recaps and thoughts after the jump.
W - Katzman (3-1)… Save – Gerbe (1)
Michigan had a pretty tough time at the plate in this game, registering just 7 hits and striking out 9 times. Luckily, Notre Dame struggled just as much at the plate, and Michigan managed to take advantage the second time through the lineup to gain the two runs in the 4th to secure the winning margin.
ND's starter Ryan Richter walked Coley Crank with one out in the inning, and that was followed by a Dufek double to left center. Lorenz grounded out to third, but it was soft enough and to the left of the fielder to allow Crank to score. Kittle would follow that with an RBI single.
On the flip side, Eric Katzman had an alright start, going 5 innings, giving up 1 run on 4 hits, and 3 strikeouts. It was your usual Katzman start, a lot of pitches (100 pitches), not a ton of strikes (56), a couple walks (3), a hit batter. It was a meh start, but apparently Jeff Arnold at AnnArbor.com thinks this is a sign that Katzman should be back in the weekend rotation soon. Me, not so much. Katzman has a low ceiling and is just as inconsistent, if not more so than any of our other weekend options this season.
After Katzman, Travis Smith, Kyle Clark, and Matt Gerbe closed out the rest of the game. Smith was quite impressive over his 4 batters, but he also pulled up a bit before being pulled from the game. No word yet on his status. Clark was a bit roughed up, giving up a run on 3 hits, but he did strike out two and walked none. Gerbe came in to close the door, retiring all four batters he faced.
- Matt Gerbe – 1.2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K, Save
- Coley Crank – 2/2 R, BB
- Attendance – 1,384
- Mike Kittle – stretching here, but his first inning error had me worrying that the lack of support in the field may bring out Evil Katzman.
W – Miller (1-2)
This was the type of game that had been expected in game one, so it's nice to see the team get a big win on the road, even with a couple players not in the lineup. More impressive is the timely hitting as all 13 runs were scored with two outs. That had to be tough for Irish fans to swallow.
To start the game, the Irish starter started the game with two quick strikeouts, and then the flood gates opened. LaMarre reached on a throwing error by the shortstop. Berset would single, and Crank got the scoring started with a single of his own. Dufek would then pull one to right center for a triple. Stephens, filling in for Nick Urban, would cap off the scoring with an RBI single of his own. In all, 9 batters would come to the plate in the inning, and Michigan would never look back.
The pitching staff did well to limit Irish opportunities as well. Matt Miller didn't have a great start, but he did have a very good one. He gave up just 2 hits over 6 innings, walking 3 and striking out one. He was much more economical in his pitch count, needing only 72 pitches (50 strikes) to complete his start. That's a start I'd take any mid-week game.
The 7th, 8th, and 9th was thrown by Ben Ballantine, Matt Broder, and Kevin Vangheluwe. It was good to see Ballantine get a good outing in as he hadn't had much time on the bump lately. Broder is also a good sight. The lefty was a pretty solid prospect coming out of high school, but in his previous 3 outings, he's been meh. Vangheluwe did give up a run to blow the shut out, but giving up just one run in one inning is an improvement.
- Chris Berset – 3/4, 2 R, BB
- Coley Crank – 2/4, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2B
- Anthony Toth – 2/5, 3 RBI, R, 2B
- Ryan LaMarre – 2/5, 2 R, RBI
- Matt Miller – 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 1 K, Win
- Kevin Vanghelwue – blew the shutout. Yes, stretching again
- Mike Kittle – Error at second
These don't mean much of anything Michigan stays static in the RPI, maybe drops a spot or two due to playing such a low ranked team. The good news is we didn't lose like Ohio State did against #217 Akron on Wednesday, or like Michigan State lost to #150 Central Michigan on Wednesday. Our RPI stays nice and shiny in the 50s. They both are bound to drop a bit.
Nick Urban was kept out of the lineup, and supposedly hasn't been practicing out of precautionary measures following his being hit in the head by a pitch. The Daily reports that if he doesn't practice Thursday, he's out against Iowa:
Redshirt senior Nick Urban continued to sit as a precaution after being hit in the head by a pitch last Sunday at Illinois.Maloney said Urban wants to play this weekend against Iowa, but hasn’t practiced and needs to Thursday in order to play.
While I would much rather have Urban in the lineup for speed and defense, having Kittle in the lineup probably won't be too detrimental. We may need some timely hitting against Iowa's decent starting pitching, and Kittle has had that lately.
Derek Dennis took Wednesday off for rest. This was the first game he hasn't played in all season. He's been struggling a bit this season, striking out a Big Ten high 37 times.
Chris Berset is good, and now people will start to realize that. I emailed Kendal Rogers to ask about what Chris Berset needed to do to get on his Position Power Rankings. Lo and behold makes his debut as the #7 catcher in the land. That's no simple feat as KR loves him big names from big conferences. Now if we can just usurp Micah Gibbs of LSU who has less impressive numbers than Berset overall, and has absolutely no defensive prowess.
John Lorenz makes that catch in the opening picture. He's had quite a few great plays at third this year defensively. They go unnoticed in many cases, especially given his fear of fielding higher than .950, or so it would seem. Sometimes it needs to be pointed out just how valuable he can be.
Iowa is up next, with the series opener coming Friday at 6:35pm ET in Ann Arbor.
|Tuesday 6:35pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|Eric Katzman (2-1, 6.00 ERA)||vs||TBA|
|Stats||Audio (MGo)||BTN.com ($)|
|Notes: Michigan is 78-44 all time, Last year: 1-1 in DH @ND (my |
recap from last season).
|Wednesday 6:05pm ET, Frank Eck Stadium, South Bend, IN|
|Matt Miller (0-2, 7.01 ERA)||vs||TBA|
Michigan will host Notre Dame Tuesday to open a home and home series with the Irish, with the road game for Michigan coming Wednesday. The Irish aren't that good of a team this year, and that might be a bit of an understatement. At just 15-19, they are currently sitting around #201 out of 301 in pseudo-RPI. That said, they, and any college team for that matter, can still be a dangerous team during the mid-week.
Preview and thoughts after a jump:
Weather looks perfect both days if not a little cool. Winds look to be minor.
The Irish have been a huge let down in the Big East after being picked to finish in the top 4-5 of the conference. As it turns out, the rest of the Big East has exploded onto the scene this season, including Louisville in the top 10, and UCONN, Pittsburgh, and Rutgers(!) all competing for tournament slots. The Irish have just one quality win on the season, taking one of three in a series against Rutgers. Meanwhile, they have been swept by South Florida and Michigan State, plus have bad losses to teams like Georgetown (#151in RPI, ND lost the series 1-2), Texas-Pan Am (#268 RPI, swept in a 2 game series), and Illinois-Chicago (#209 in RPI).
Notre Dame does have a group of hitters worth mentioning. David Mills leads the team with a .364 batting average, but he's not much of a slugger, with only a .492 slugging percentage. He does have some speed though, as he's leading the Irish in steals (8/10). He's spent the season splitting time between the outfield and designated hitter role, and he's made starts in the lead off, 2-, and 3-holes of the lineup. As of last weekend, he's been consistently hitting in the 3.
Behind Mills in the clean up spot will be Casey Martin, the Irish first baseman. Martin is another high average guy at .357, but he too isn't the strongest slugger, with a slugging percentage at .492. That said, he is second in slugging on the team. His on base percentage isn't great at just .392, and he doesn't really seem to have much speed either.
The leading slugger on the team is left fielder Ryan Connolly, who bats lead off. I know what you're thinking. Lead off batter is your top slugger? He's only slugging .615, which isn't that great. His 6 home runs and 3 triples are good numbers, but his .462 on base and .350 batting average are more like lead off batter numbers.
After that, the hitters drop off pretty quick. As a team, their batting average is only .286, which is pretty horrible.
No official word yet on who the Irish will be starting, but if patterns hold, we should see Adam Norton (1-0, 5.56 ERA) for one of the two games, presumably Tuesday. Norton has started the last two mid-week games for the Irish. He earned his first win of the season against Oakland two weeks ago, pitching just 4 innings while giving up 5 hits and 2 runs, striking out 6 on 70 pitches, 44 of which were strikes. Last week, he took a no decision in a ND victory, throwing 4.1 innings, giving up 3 runs on 6 hits, 2 walks, and a strikeout. He threw 79 pitches that game, 50 for strikes. That's quite a few pitches for just 4 innings.
No idea who starts the other game. The Irish have had their second mid-week game canceled a few times over the last few weeks. They do have quite a few decent looking ERAs in the bullpen. Steven Mazur appears to be the closer with 4 saves in 12 appearances with a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings and 21 strikeouts.
Update: The Observer is reporting the other starter is likely a lefty:
[Irish coach Dave] Schrage said that the starting pitcher will be a game-time decision between sophomore LHP Ryan Richter and freshman RHP Adam Norton.
Richter is 1-0 in 7 relief appearances, tossing 19.2 innings, giving up 21 runs (19 earned) on 28 hits, 5 walks, and 16 strikeouts. His extra base hit totals are pretty high for the innings he's thrown, having given up 8 doubles, 3 triples, and 4 home runs.
The Irish get up for this series. Their fans will probably come out in good numbers, even to the Ann Arbor game. However, Michigan shouldn't have any problems dealing with their fans, even at Eck.
It will be interesting to see how Matt Miller's start goes on Wednesday. He's still trying to find his groove. That could be said about Katzman (pictured right from MGoBlue) as well. His career numbers against the Irish could also use some padding. Hopefully the start goes better than last year's. He led off the game with a walk and hit Golden Tate. He was done after just one inning as it was a staff day in that game. On that note, I'd like to see Travis Smith get some work in this week. He couldn't even record an out against ND last year. It's time for some redemption.
I think we see a lot of guys like Smith - backups, that is - over the next two days. I wouldn't be surprised to see Stephens get a couple innings at first and Kittle get a start somewhere. Crank is probably also due a start to give Berset an easy DH day.
This series means nothing in the long run, but I think we see both teams compete as this series tends to be big for bragging rights. I predict a Michigan sweep. If we don't I'd be pretty surprised, and probably shocked at what it does to our nice #57 RPI ranking. We're pretty much guaranteed to drop for playing such a low rated opponent, so we can't let it fall drastically like it would with a loss.