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.