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:
Michigan handily took care of Central Michigan on a fairly wet day in Ann Arbor by a score of 13-7 in front of 880 fans braving the weather. Matt Gerbe took the win in his first career start, moving to 1-0 on the season. He went only 3.2 innings giving up 4 hits, 3 runs (all unearned), and 2 walks whiles not recording a strikeout. Behind him, Travis Smith, Ben Ballantine, Kolby Wood, Matt Miller, and Matt Broder combined to finish the game and give up on 4 runs (3 earned). Decent day against a decent hitting team.
The offense was clicking in full, recording 18 hits, including a multi-hit game by Biondi (3), Toth (2), Berset (2), Crank (2), Dufek (2), Urban (2), and Dennis (2). Every starter had a hit in this game, and the only batter with a plate appearance without one was John Lorenz, who went 0-for-1 after entering the game as a defensive replacement. No real stars here, as everyone hit well and was timely about it.
It is worth noting that Ryan LaMarre made his first start since breaking his thumb, playing left field instead of center as he started in the season opener. LaMarre went 1-for-3 on the day with a hit by pitch and a strikeout. He also unlaced a screamer up the middle, seen in the video highlights almost hitting Berset as he lead off second. That's encouraging to see him hit the ball hard and up the middle.
The other major lineup change was moving senior Mike Kittle to third base for the start. I'm not sure this is a permanent move, but Kittle has had a hot bat of late and it appears Rich Maloney wants to try and keep that bat in the lineup. That could be a tough break for sophomore John Lorenz who has really picked up his game play of late. He had raised is average to nearly .280, which isn't bad for a 8-hole hitter in the Big Ten, but he hasn't been that consistent at the plate.
What will keep Lorenz in the mix at third is, surprisingly, his defense. Kittle had a diving play that he reacted too slow on early in the game. Lorenz faced an identical play late in the game, and he was able to move in front of the ball and make the easy throw to first. I'm not sure who to expect to start at the hot corner on Friday, but I think we see Lorenz. I somewhat think this was just a trial to see how Kittle would perform defensively. It's not that he failed that test, I'm just not sure that switch is warranted yet. Should be interesting to see come Friday.
Michigan takes on Purdue this weekend. I'll have some Q&A with a Purdue baseball blogger tomorrow and a couple series thoughts out Friday. Friday's first pitch is currently slated for 7:05pm at Ray Fisher Stadium and televised on the BTN (the television channel, not the internet stream).
This isn't anything revolutionary, crucially important or even mildly fascinating, but I'd like to highlight a positive contribution from the M community to my community.
I hail (!) from the small town of Chelsea, about fifteen minutes west of A2. My residence here isn't particularly MGoRelevant, but somebody else's is: Chelsea also happens to be home to Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney. I've had the pleasure of talking to him at a number of different sporting events in town, and I've always found him to be a great guy who makes an effort to be active in his community.
My positive impression of him grew a bit stronger today when I opened this week's edition of the local paper and saw a page of photos from area schools and preschools. March has been declared reading month in Chelsea, and among other things, that includes a variety of guests who visit local schools and read to the kids. As a part of that, Coach Maloney and several of the players spent time as guest readers at one of the elementary schools in Chelsea.
So as a resident of Chelsea, I'd like to thank Rich Maloney, Nick Urban, Mike Kittle, Chris Berset and Eric Katzman for taking the time to make a positive contribution to the community.