Bring back those crutches. As a matter of fact, bring them back and then give me one hell of a dong punch to the soul. That's the way this weekend ended.
After taking the first two games from Jacksonville State by scoring an average of 16.5 runs per game, Michigan started the season in much the same way as last year, a chance injury to a star player. This year, it's Preseason All-American Ryan LaMarre.
After diving for a ball in left center, Ryan got up slowly. Reports had him holding either his hand or arm. I've heard everything from hand to wrist to arm to shoulder. The specifics of the injury are still a mystery, but in today's Daily, we hear that the only thing definite is that LaMarre will be out:
He left the game, and his status remains unclear until further evaluation in Ann Arbor today. Michigan coach Rich Maloney, though, thinks that he may miss "an extended period of time."
“Obviously, that’s going to hurt,” Maloney said of the loss of LaMarre. “Someone else is going to have to step up. Injuries happen to all teams. It’s unfortunate that it’s our star player, but in the same token, we’re a team. Somebody else is going to have to pick up the slack.”
This isn't what we needed. We'll know more as the week progresses, but for now, I'm elevating the Curse of 2009-2010 alert to Orange. There is a High Risk of the Angry Michigan Hating God intervening this season.
- W 19-11, WP – Burgoon (1-0)
- W 14-2, WP – Oaks (1-0)
That's some high scoring action right there. As the saying goes, big innings win college games, and in Game 1, Michigan was aided by a 4 run top of the first and a 7 run top of the third. Of the 9 starters, only Anthony Toth didn't register a multi-hit game.
Coley Crank had to be the hero in this game. His 4-for-6 day featured not one, not two, but three home runs. That breaks his career high of two from last year. His 7 RBIs was also a career high for a single game. His day earned him NCAA D1 Baseball Blog's inaugural Friday MVP of the season.
Update: He was also named Louisville Slugger's Player of the Week. Congrats Coley.
And while everyone had a particularly good game at the plate, I feel it's also important to point out the great hitting by freshman leadoff hitter Patrick Biondi. Biondi went 3-for-5 with 3 runs, 3 RBI, and a homer. He also stole 2 of Michigan's 6 bases on the day. I saw the kid being a great base runner, but a home run in his first career game? That's a pleasant surprise to boot.
For all the good the offense did, the 11 runs given up by the offense is a huge red flag. Starter Tyler Burgoon had a quiet first two innings, but that 6 spot in the third looks pretty ugly. I was unable to watch the game due to travel constraints, but Burgoon gave up 5 singles and then a three run homer with two outs. Given there were 5 singles to the outfield, I guess I can give Burgoon a pass. That many singles in an inning probably came from a little bit of tough luck, but I'll leave it to the commenters on whether they saw hard hit liners or soft bloopers.
The good news was that Burgoon came back and finished the next two innings with much better form.
The bullpen behind Burgoon looked a bit rusty as well. Four pitchers each went one inning a piece with mixed results. Freshman Ben Ballantine got his first appearance, getting a two quick outs before pitching himself into trouble. After an infield single, a pair of walks and a pair of wild pitches, Ballantine managed to escape the inning without giving up a run.
Matt Gerbe came next and he wasn't quite as lucky to escape. The inning started off with an error by Derek Dennis. A few walks, a wild pitch, hits batsman, and a pair of singles later, JSU posted 4 runs, only one being earned, were on the board. That error ended up being crucial. For Gerbe though, he did managed to strikeout the side, so at least he had that going for him.
Freshman Kyle Clark and sophomore Kevin Vangheluwe finished the game. Vangheluwe looked particularly good striking out two and not giving up a base runner.
Game 2 against JSU was just as solid offensively. Dufek was the leader in this one going 3-for-5, all doubles, with 6 RBI . John Lorenz also had a solid game at 3-for4 including a double and two runs scored. Crank blasted his fourth homer and Biondi posted 3 runs scored and two RBI.
More importantly in this game, the pitching staff looked quite a bit better. Alan Oaks went 6 innings giving up only two runs on four hits, striking out two and walking two. Great start for Alan's season.
Behind him, Brandon Sinnery threw two scoreless innings giving up 1 hit and striking out three. And I would be remiss for not pointing out a nearly flawless 9th inning by Jeff DeCarlo. He threw a scoreless 9th, walking one and fanning two.
- L 2-4, LP – Brosnahan (0-1)
- L 5-18, LP – Smith (0-1)
Game 1: This game could be broken down into two segments, pre-injury and post-injury. Before the injury, Michigan was definitely in the game. In each of the first two innings, Michigan was moving runners and scoring. One run each inning. It wasn't the impressive display from the first two games of the season, but it was manufacturing runs by stealing bases and being aggressive.
In the bottom of the second, up 2-1, LaMarre had to leave the game. Michigan would not garner another hit during the entire game. I think it's safe to assume that any momentum we had built deflated with Ryan's injury.
Our pitchers did an admirable job trying to keep Michigan in the game. Matt Miller went 6 innings allowing just 2 runs on 6 hits, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts. He did hit two batters. Bobby Brosnahan made his Michigan debut giving up 2 runs, both in this second inning of work. He struck out two, walked two, and gave up 3 hits.
I'm okay with this close loss, with or without LaMarre. I would think with LaMarre we win this game, but I was okay with the idea of losing a close game like this.
Game two, however, I can't call an alright loss. Texas Tech scored in each of the first 5 innings with scores of 3, 2, 2, 3, and 8. Travis Smith continued his struggles from last year, being rocked heavily over his 1.2 innings worked. He gave up 5 runs on 5 hits, 1 walk, and 2 hit batsmen.
Smith's struggles aren't that surprising. I have to think that if we were still playing a four game weekend schedule in the BigTen, Sinnery would be the 4th starter and Smith would be in the bullpen, but with Sinnery being too good to use only for mid-week starts, Brandon is in the bullpen and Smith will be the mid-week starter. That's the only logic I can come up with to explain Smith being the fourth starter.
The bullpen behind Smith was pretty atrocious. Wood, Katzman, Vangheluwe, and Ballantine all took their lumps on the mound. Wood lasted 1.1 innings giving up 3 runs on 3 hits. Katzman lasted one inning giving up 3 runs on 4 hits, a walk, and one strikeout. Vangheluwe couldn't complete an inning, giving up 4 runs on 4 hits with a strikeout. Ballantine tried to get the last out of Vangheluwe's mess, but he gave up 4 more runs on 4 more hits and gave up a walk before getting the out.
Let's pray we never speak of that again.
The bleeding finally stopped when Brandon Sinnery entered the game and pitched two perfect innings. Clark threw the last inning giving up a walk but nothing else.
On offense, Michigan did manage to get some offense going. In the first, a pair of walks and an infield single lead to a sacrifice fly by Nick Urban. Michigan also managed to have baserunners nearly every inning, but it was usually a single or a walk with no support from the next few batters.
In the ninth, Michigan did manage to score four runs, but three of them were unearned, so take them for what they're worth. We put pressure on the defense and got lucky. Hopefully that might spur a turn around for the offense going into the BigEast/BigTen Challenge. That's all I can hope for at the moment.
I like to include links to relevant other media that I don't mention in the post following weekends. They'll go here:
What it Means
This weekend started out promising, but a couple new questions arise without LaMarre and with a pitching staff that hasn't quite figured everything out yet. I don't think we know enough to form solid opinions on the season from the first weekend outside, but we need to learn and respond from the weekend.
Texas Tech may end up being a pretty good team this year, so maybe this won't hurt us too much from an RPI stand point. Wins over JSU are just wins. They won't mean much in the long run.
This is going to be a long week of practice. Without knowing the status of LaMarre, the coaching staff is going to have to juggle their options in the outfield as well as get our pitchers heads on straight after all the whip lash probably encountered by watching balls flying past them off opponents' bats. We face stiff competition this weekend with two of the top three teams in the BigEast, including a ranked Louisville squad on Friday.