It took much effort on my part not to drop another string of 4 letter words that wouldn't have been so necessary to describe the ending of that game.
mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
Michigan took two of three games at Penn State this weekend to claim a #2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. While all three games had many great positives, the ending to game two is how this series will be remembered. Michigan held a 4 run lead going into the bottom of the 9th, and the bull pen collapsed.
Weekend recap, series thoughts, and a look at the Big Ten bracket after the jump
W – Oaks (5-5)… Save – Burgoon (10)
This might have been one of Michigan’s best played games of the year. Alan Oaks made a beauty of a start, going 7 innings and giving up just 3 runs. I’ll take that every time out. Better news, though, was that Oaks walked only two batters, his lowest total in a few weeks. It was a big boost for Michigan, saving most of the bullpen for later in the series. Oaks had only two major mistakes. Both were solo homers, including one to Big Ten home run champ Ben Heath. As solo home runs, they were minimal damage. The other run was scored to open the game, giving up a double and single, which happens.
On offense, Michigan had things clicking, particularly in the middle of the order. Berset, Crank, Urban, and Lorenz all had 2 hits a piece. Michigan also set it’s season high with triples in a game, with LaMarre, Urban, and Lorenz each tallying one.
This game really cruised by, finishing in just over 2.5 hours. With the win, Michigan also clinched a spot in the Big Ten Tournament.
L – Gerbe (2-1)
There are some games played every season where I can’t end with anything other than a bunch of four letter words not worth repeating. This was one of those games.
Michigan, leading 5-1 in the bottom of the ninth, looking to seal the game that already saw Bobby Brosnahan unable to secure a win despite throwing 6.2 innings and giving up just one earned run. Michigan was just 3 outs with nearly the entire bull pen at it’s disposal, and Penn State had already made all of the mass defensive changes of a team ready to raise the white flag.
Michigan could not seal the win. Kolby Wood, after throwing a solid 1-2-3 8th inning, the couldn’t get any of the first four batters in the 9th out. He would give up 3 singles and hit a batter.
Matt Gerbe would be pulled after a RBI double and a walk. Sinnery replaced him, recording the lone out of the inning. After getting a fielder’s choice ground out from Dennis to Berset at the place to prevent a run and a foul pop up, Sinnery was removed for Katzman – a move I didn’t like at the time. With two outs and a full count – exactly the same situation to end the Minnesota walk off, Steranka grounded up the middle. With the runners moving, Biondi didn’t really have a chance on the guy at the plate.
Penn State walked off to victory 6-5. Michigan went from a sealed #2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament to perhaps losing it.
But there were some highlights offensively, enough so that despite that punch to the face, I feel obliged to include them here. Michigan did manage 14 hits on the game, led by Anthony Toth’s 3 hit game. LaMarre, Berset, Dufek, and Lorenz each had 2-hit games.
Michigan did leave quite a few runners on base with 9 total, but this wasn’t the difference in the game. That definitely falls on the bull pen outside of Sinnery.
W – Miller (3-2)
This game started with an ominous feeling to it. The feeling that Michigan was going to back itself into the tournament with no momentum ran heavy. After a quick first inning start, starter Brandon Sinnery gave up the lead. When Michigan tied it to start the 2nd, Sinnery gave up another run to give the lead right back. Things just didn’t look good as the offense started sputtering, stranding base runners and hitting into crippling double plays. The horizon looked bleak.
Then, for the second weekend in a row, Michigan was bailed out by the arm of Matt Miller. The unsung hero of last week’s epic comeback was just as strong this weekend against Penn State. With one out and two runners in scoring position, Miller would strike out Steranka for a crucial out, and after walking Heath intentionally, would get an easy ground ball to Dufek, stranding 3 Penn State runners. The tide of the game was changing.
Over the next 7 innings, Matt Miller was masterful. He allowed zero runs on just 5 hits, walking 2 and striking out 6. His fastball was pure gas. He topped out several times at 97, with many of the fastest coming in this 3rd-5th innings of work. The guy was a horse.
I’m really surprised Miller didn’t get the start in the first place. If the 5.2 strong innings against Northwestern weren’t enough, especially given that Brandon Sinnery threw the night before, I would have assumed that Miller earned the #3 starter spot. After today, the only way he’s not the third starter is if Michigan needs him in long relief in either of the first two games. The guy has earned it.
Luckily, the offense also realized the gem that Miller was putting forward. After a few innings of struggling, the team pieced together a 4-run 7th inning to take the lead for good. As it has been much of the last week, everything got going with great production from the bottom of the lineup. Lorenz got things going with a 1-out double to the centerfield wall. After a pair of hit by pitches and a foul out, the two out rally was started.
Ryan LaMarre broke through with a single up the middle. Two runs would score as the throw from the centerfielder was well wide, moving both runners up a base. Berset followed that with a 2-RBI single of his own down into the left field corner. That would be all the insurance Matt Miller would need.
Thank goodness for happy endings. After Michigan’s game two loss, there was much doom and despair on my part. All of the momentum Michigan had was sucked out in devastating fashion. The confidence I had in Gerbe and Wood? Dashed to next to nothing. That was a bit of an overreaction, and after sleeping on it, I think I’m just back to the point before the recent run. Our bull pen is still pretty good, but they have their off nights. It happens, and unfortunately it all happened at once. I still think Sinnery should have had the last batter in game two, and I still don’t think he should have started game 3. It was a risky gamble in both cases, and Maloney almost came up 0/2. Luckily, Rich had an ace in the hole with Miller coming out of the pen.
Our offense was really good almost all weekend. They shelled up over a few inning stretches, but nothing was worrisome. Crank had a pretty rough last two games, but hopefully that isn’t a long lasting thing. I fully expect him to tear it up next week.
Speaking of tear it up, John Lorenz and Nick Urban have been all stars the last two weeks. Their success has been just as vital as LaMarre, Berset, and Dufek. With Biondi taking some serious steps back from his early season form, the load has been spread much more evenly and it’s worked wonders. I might even call Michigan the second best offense in the tourney behind Indiana.
It’s tournament time! With Michigan’s win, they have received a #2 seed and the CRUCIAL bye. That means Michigan won’t be facing anyone’s ace on Thursday as the four teams without byes try to avoid the loser’s bracket. With Michigan lacking a defined ace, they’ll need that break so the offense can hopefully mount up solid numbers and whoever starts Thursday will have some breathing room to work with.
As for the bracket:
Michigan will face the highest seed to win out of Wednesday. My guess is Northwestern is that seed. It’ll be interesting to see if Indiana can outslug the Wildcats. The Hoosiers have a ton of momentum after sweeping Illinois, but the Illini pitching staff isn’t Northwestern. Jokisch for Northwestern went a complete game last week, and Leininger went 8. Both have a solid guy to turn the game over to in Snieder and Squires respectively.
The other game features a rematch from this weekend. Bischoff and Purdue lost to Hippen and Iowa in the first game of a double header. That game could go either way, and despite Iowa taking 2 of 3 from the Boilermakers this weekend, I still favor Purdue. Hippen, as big of a fan as I am of the kid, threw a complete game last week. He’ll be on short rest. I don’t think that bodes well.
There are plans in the works for a Big Ten Tournament Live Blog on Tuesday night featuring a few of the other baseball bloggers. If it happens, I’ll have something up before then. If not, which is likely as most of the bloggers’ teams were eliminated, previews will start Thursday.
It took much effort on my part not to drop another string of 4 letter words that wouldn't have been so necessary to describe the ending of that game.
Despite the ninth inning gut-punch, they didn't get down. The errors are way down and there have been any number of "web gem" defensive plays. Derek Dennis getting hits, Biondi getting on base, and though Crank did leave a number of men on base, it seems like the strikeouts are declining. Add in the really great offensive performances we've seen over the past two weeks, and I think it's all come together well for the tournament.
I wonder what the Buckeyes will be doing? Looks like they didn't even get an invite to their own tournament ... too bad.
It was pretty ugly. If not for Northwestern's walk-off against MSU we would have been in a four way tie with MSU, Northwestern, and IU for the last two spots and might not have gotten in.
The most encouraging thing to me from this weekend is the way Oaks stepped up on Friday...the way he's struggled at times this year, it's good to see him pitch a game like that going into the Big Ten tourney and, hopefully, the NCAA tourney. With some of the aces in the Big Ten conference, we need ours to step up when it matters (which I think he will). The whole 2 walks thing is encouraging as well.
Here's what Lebrano looked like in the "home section" during PSU's 9th inning rally. I don't think the home fans had left yet, because with the exception of less Maize that's what the section looked like the entire time.
Well, they can be pathetically empty and still have a good number in attendance. Not in that picture, but they had 1300 at one game and it still looked empty. 1300 at Michigan would look nearly full. Such is the problem with 5000+ seats.
My grandparents talked about baseball in it's heyday and my neighbor played ball for the Indians in the 50's.
Anyway, we didn't get there too much before gametime and none of our tickets had a number higher than 400-something. Talking to some of the Michigan alums and fans that were there, all thought that Lebrano would be a great place for the B10 tournament.
So far from everyone else.
So is Minnesota, at least when you're talking baseball powers that be. And if we still had 1st place hosts, we'd be playing in the Metrodome. Columbus is decidedly better as a neutral site for it's location, despite there being much better places that would be neutral.
I have a feeling this year's tourney will be pretty bare in the stands. No home team. A few teams that don't have a good history of traveling well (Northwestern/Iowa specifically). By being in Columbus, the conference has sold out on being Ohio State in it or a major lack in attendance. At least that's my opinion.
If Michigan plays Indiana, there may be a huge crowd. Purdue might be surprisingly well represented. Not sure what to expect with Minnesota being that far away.
But who in their right mind would ever suggest the Metrodome as a neutral site?
No chance we can go down on Thursday, maybe Friday evening if things are trending that way.
I was looking at ticket prices for a possible weekend trip.
It says $10 per game. Not $10 per day, but $10 per game, plus Ticketmaster service charges if I order through the website. Of course, nobody will order through the website, especially because "all single game tickets are general admission."
So if I wanted to go to the entire tournament, it would cost me $100--actually $110 if they have to play the "if necessary" game on Sunday. Plus Ticketmaster service charges. They are also selling all-tournament passes, for the unhelpful price of $100. Plus Ticketmaster service charges.
I like college baseball, but I wouldn't spend that kind of money on the Big Ten tournament even if I lived in Columbus. What are they thinking? For comparison, general admission tickets to the ACC tournament are $8/game, general admission tickets to the SEC tournament are $12/session, with 2 games in a session, general admission tickets to the Big XII tournament are $13/session, with 2 games in a session. All 3 tournaments will feature much better baseball in much nicer stadiums. The Big East, at about the same competitive level as the Big Ten (a little higher this season, actually), charges $8 per day for box seats!
The Big Ten has made a terrible decision to go with the "neutral" site for this tournament, and they have misjudged the general interest in Big Ten baseball. They have an opportunity every year to promote Big Ten Baseball, but it appears that they are completely oblivious.
(You can imagine that in a slightly sneering tone if it suits your anti-Buckeye prejudices.)
Anyway, during Michigan baseball's most recent heyday (ah, those were the good old days!) we went to the Big Ten tournament and Regionals at the Fish (old Fish and new) and while the tickets were priced per game, no one made the slightest attempt to clear the stadium between games. As with any NCAA sponsored event, everyone had to have a ticket, so our days of buying only one ticket, since we had two staff IDs and a child five or under, were over for the season.
I really can't imagine it will be any different this year. I mean, they wouldn't shoo old dudes and families out and make them buy new tickets. That would be nuts. Maybe Chris Webb knows how it went down last year?
WOTS is they are clearing them out in Omaha this summer. I wouldn't be wholly surprised to see them clear things out of BDS. I'm not entirely sure who sets the prices, but I'll email Val to see what she has to say.
Webb says they will be clearing between games. Val may not have much access to email today. It's media day today, so she'll be on that for the most part. I'll drop a comment in if I hear back from her.
1. As I said, that is nuts.
2. We didn't go last year (obvs) but all the previous BTTs we attended at Michigan (2006, 2007, 2008) and the 2008 Regional, there was no clearing out at the Fish.
3. It will make the "neutral site" look even worse to everyone else who has visited Big Ten postseason play.
4. People will blame the Buckeyes which will make for charming message board banter (not).
any doubt that Eric Dickerson wins POY and Wimmers Pitcher?
No way I can see Dickerson not winning it. Triple crown winner at .415 average, 23 homers, 73 RBI. No way that loses out.
Wimmers becomes a tough call as he missed 3 of 8 weeks in the Big Ten. Will that be enough for the powers to be not to vote him there? I'm not sure. I think he's deserving of the honors. He is only one strikeout behind Bischoff while throwing only a about 15 less innings on the season. I guess it depends on if those who vote go specifically on the Big Ten season or include the out of conference season as well.