Baseball: Minnesota Recap

Submitted by formerlyanonymous on May 9th, 2010 at 6:55 PM

What a dump…

Michigan took it on the chin this weekend, dropping two games to open the series at Minnesota, but they battled back to win a close game three and keep pace with the Big Ten Joneses. Recaps, thoughts, and the opening stanza to a MICHIGAN STATE HATE mid-week series after the jump. And no, no pretty pictures as baseball can't be pretty in the Metrodome.

Game One

Box Score R H E
Michigan 1 1 0   1 0 0   0 4 0   7 9 0
Minnesota 1 0 0   1 4 3   5 0 x   14 17 1

L – Katzman (4-2)

This game started with promise. Despite Minnesota's Rosin striking out 6 batters in the first two innings, Michigan still managed two runs. Michigan fans lucky enough to have been at the game might have even been inspired, seeing the same "LaMarre reach base to let Berset hit him in" combo that had been a staple of the offense just three weeks ago. Unfortunately, those aforementioned strikeouts had to bring back dark memories of last season when Michigan collapsed down the stretch.

Michigan gained their second run on a Nick Urban home run in the 2nd, his first hit in a very productive weekend for the right fielder. In the 4th, following a Dufek single, Urban would take a hit by pitch, setting up a John Lorenz clutch single up the middle to give Michigan a 3-1 lead.

On the mound for Michigan, Katzman was everything we expect of him, throwing a ton of pitches, giving up too many baserunners for comfort, and generally escaping big innings. And like any other start like this, he collapsed. With that 3-1 lead, Katzman would start the next inning with a hit batter, a single, and a walk. This was only a sign of things to come, as Katzman managed to escape with only a sacrifice fly for one run.

The 5th inning, he wouldn't be so lucky. Katzman opened the frame with a single and a homer, losing the lead for Michigan. This would lead to Matt Gerbe replacing him, but Gerbe wouldn't fare much better. He ended up giving up 4 more hits, three of them ground balls through the infield. At any other field, those might have been cut off by an infielder. In the Metrodome, they skip quickly through on the turf. That's tough luck, and it saw Minnesota put up 4 runs in the inning.

Travis Smith made his return to the mound in the 6th for the first time since leaving the Notre Dame series with an injury. He wasn't quite as dominant as he was against the Irish. In just a third of an inning, Smith gave up a single, a walk and a 2-RBI double. Freshman Kyle Clark came in from there giving up a walk, a double, and a sacrifice fly.

Clark's troubles extended to the 7th, where he lead off the inning with a single, hit batsman, walk, and single. Freshman Ben Ballantine then entered, giving up three straight singles before getting out of the inning. By then, Michigan was down 14-3.

Michigan did put together a decent inning in the 8th. Chris Berset led off with a single and Crank was hit by the next pitch. After a wild pitch, Dufek knocked a sacrifice fly for the first run. Urban would be hit by a pitch again, and with Kittle pinch hitting for Lorenz, he would single through the right side for another run. Then a few errors by the Gophers lead to two more Michigan runs which brought the game to the final 14-7 score.

Needless to say, this game was a huge disappointment. As predicted, our pitching took a big step back, and this game set a poor tone for the rest of the series.

Notable Stars

  • Nick Urban – 1/2, 2 RBI, R, HR, 2 HBP
  • Chris Berset – 2/4, R, RBI
  • Mike Dufek – 1/2, R, RBI, BB
  • Patrick Biondi – 1/5, Broke his 0/28 streak

Notable Goats

  • Coley Crank – 0/3, R, 3 K (hat trick), 1 LOB
  • Eric Katzman – 4 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 79 pitches (42 strikes)

Game Two

Box Score R H E
Michigan 0 0 0   2 0 1   0 0 1   4 8 0
Minnesota 0 0 0   0 0 2   0 0 3   5 9 1

L – Burgoon (6-3)

For this game, you can skip right to the ending. With Michigan leading 4-2 after executing a suicide squeeze for an extra insurance run in the top of the 9th, the game looked in the the bag. Tyler Burgoon had been shaky in his previous two innings of work, but you had to feel good going into the ninth.

Then came the punch to the gut. After a fly out, Minnesota's star Kvasnicka singled. That was followed by a single to left center to put runners on the corners. Another single, a run scores, it's a one run game with the tying run on second. Then a four pitch walk, bases loaded – things are tense. The next batter strikes out, two away. The count goes full, and the runners will be moving. It all comes down to the last pitch, Tyler Burgoon versus Minnesota's DH Trip Schultz. The pitch, singled to left center. With runners moving, the game is over before anyone can even field the ball.

Michigan loses 5-4. Yours truly is stunned. What a waste of a solid, albeit shaky, Alan Oaks start. Oaks went 5.2 innings before handing over the game to Burgoon, allowing only 4 hits and two runs (one earned). Even the unearned run came on a Berset passed ball after Burgoon had entered the game. Oaks did walk 6 batters, but managed to get by unscathed for the most part.

Notable Stars

  • Mike Dufek – 2/4, 2 RBI
  • Nick Urban – 2/4, R, RBI, 2B
  • Patrick Biondi – 1/4 R, BB, 2 SB (2nd & 3rd back-to-back). Oddly he scored on the walk, no the hit where he stole both bases. I consider the steals and hit a good game for him after the last few weeks. Wouldn't normally deserve star status.

Notable Goats

  • Tyler Burgoon – 3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 K, L.  Sometimes you're just not on.
  • Ryan LaMarre – 0/4. At this point, he's hitting .125 in his last 6 games with 5 Ks and ZERO extra base hits.

Game Three

Box Score R H E
Michigan 0 0 0   1 0 0   0 1 0   2 7 0
Minnesota 0 1 0   0 0 0   0 0 0   1 6 0

W – Brosnahan (5-4)

Michigan was out for redemption on Sunday in the Metrodome, throwing Brandon Sinnery in a crucial game three and looking to avoid the sweep. Sinnery was more than up for the task, going 5.1 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits, 4 walks, and 3 Ks. While that's not the best of starts,especially the 4 walks, it's the results that count in the book, and allowing one run over 5.1 got the job done.

Despite the 1 run given up, Sinnery wouldn't earn the win. Minnesota's Phil Isaksson has been the Gophers' best pitcher this year, and today he was just as successful as he's been all season. Isaksson spread 6 hits and 2 runs over 7.1 innings, allowing just 3 walks while striking out 3. His only big mistake on the day was a ball left up for Ryan LaMarre who knocked it off the left field bleachers for a solo home run in the 8th.

Bobby Brosnahan came in with 2 on and one out in the 6th, and induced a quick double play, in what was easily the game changing at bat of the game. Minnesota had been getting runners on with success, but was just short of pushing them across the plate. With that ground ball, Brosnahan set the tone for the rest of the evening. Bobby's final line was 3.2 innings, 1 hit, 4 strikeouts, and zero runs. Huge win for Brosnahan.

Notable Stars

  • Bobby Brosnahan – 3.2 ip, 1 H, 0 R, 4 K, W
  • Ryan LaMarre – 1/4 HR, game winner
  • John Lorenz – 2/4, RBI

Notable Goats

  • Ryan LaMarre – 3 LOB
  • Cole Crank – 0/2, R, BB, 2 K, 2 LOB
  • Runners left on base total: 10

Series Thoughts

Despite predicting the 1-2 series loss, it still was a disappointment to lose so badly in game one, and probably worse that we lost the way that we did in game two. That said, I'm feeling a little more comfortable with the pitching staff overall. Oaks and Sinnery are giving up a few too many walks, but they are battling through innings more often than not. I don't think Katzman will ever be a safe bet as a starter, but once every three weeks he'll pitch a gem and win a game I would have expected to lose otherwise. The rest of the time, we get what we saw this weekend.

I'm also encouraged by a few hitters picking it up this weekend. Biondi went 4/13 over the weekend with 3 steals. That's a huge improvement over the 0/28 he was facing coming into the weekend. Nick Urban also had a tremendous weekend going 4/9 with 2 doubles, a home run, 3 runs, 3 RBI, and 3 hit by pitches. That's a lot of offense right there.

The next piece to the slumping puzzle needs to be either Ryan LaMarre or Coley Crank. Before that homer in game three, LaMarre hadn't had an extra base hit in 3 games, sporting a .125 batting average over the last two weeks. Maybe the homer will be a spark going into next week against the Spartans. Crank looked to be coming out of the mini-slump after a great weekend against Ohio State. This week, he regressed quite a bit, going 0/9.

Lastly, Minnesota is a much better team than their overall record may lead to believe. They might have one of the best rotations in the Big Ten, right up there with Purdue. They also have a good core of hitters and they are probably a favorite for the Big Ten Tournament right now.

Conference Jockeying

The standings are still in a mess, and one series isn't completed just yet. As of Sunday night, Michigan sits in second place, half a game behind Purdue. The Boilermakers finish their series with the Spartans on Monday, and the way things have gone this season, I think we see MSU win. Why is that, you may ask? If Purdue loses, that puts a 4-way tie for 1st place at 10-8 and a 4-way tie for last place at 8-10. That's all ten Big Ten teams within 2 games of the leaders with just two weekends left before the tournament.

conference standings The Funnel of a Sucky Conference

Chaos. That's why.

For those of you that prefer something easier to read:






















Ohio State
















Penn State




Michigan State



Northwestern beat Minnesota who beat Michigan. Michigan will face Northwestern next weekend. Ohio State took the series against Indiana. Iowa beat Illinois who beat Penn State. Iowa has yet to play Penn State. If MSU beats Purdue on Monday, all those tie breakers mean nothing.

Purdue probably has the easiest path to a Big Ten Tourney bye, with Illinois and Iowa as their two weekend series left. I think Minnesota should be a clear #2 seed behind the Boilermakers, but Ohio State could play spoiler if they have Wimmers back by then. After the Gophers, I think we see some mixture of Northwestern, Michigan, Ohio State, and Indiana rounding out the field. No clue who to take there.

By the way, that might have been the fastest fall from first to last place ever in terms of Michigan State's collapse. They were tied for first on April 25th, last place on May 9th (insert something about the harder they fall here).

Up Next

No, that wasn't just some unplanned pot shot at MSU fans. It's Michigan State on the schedule next in a home-and-home out-of-conference series. The Spartans fell off our conference schedule this year as one team is rotated off every two years (we missed Purdue the last two). So to honor the rivalry between the two schools, they'll meet this Tuesday and Wednesday.

I won't preview the Spartans too thoroughly as this is just a mid-week game that means nothing to either team, but I will get something out Tuesday before game time. Game one takes place in East Lansing at 3:05pm ET as their baseball stadium lacks basic necessities like lights, non-trailer concession stands, and restrooms in the press box. Wednesday's game takes place at the majesty that is Ray Fisher Stadium at the Wilpon Complex, a site with lights, pretty brick, and enough restrooms for the 2,500 fans that should be in attendance.



May 9th, 2010 at 8:34 PM ^

I followed the Saturday game online and thought it was in the bag after the suicide squeeze gave us an insurance run in the 9th.  Tough one to lose.  Glad to see them bounce back on Sunday to stay near the top of the standings (although I guess you can say that 10th place is "near" the top of the standings the way it's worked out so far).

FA:  Any chance at all that Michigan can make the tournament (NCAA, that is) WITHOUT winning the Big 10 tourney?  We'd been hovering in the mid-50's RPI-wise prior to this weekend (which I assume will hurt).  Does the committee give any extra credit to Midwest/Northern teams to help balance out the tournament?  I mean, we play all of our early games away from home (many on neutral fields, but also some just pure road games).  We've lost to North Carolina, Texas Tech, Coastal Carolina and Louisville - all pretty darn good teams.  I guess it would've helped to have won at least one of those games, but if I'm not mistaken, all of those games (except maybe the TT games) were played without LeMarre.


May 9th, 2010 at 8:54 PM ^

And on a related note, the committee couldn't give to shakes about being from the North or being on the road. If they would have cared that much, the week added to the season would have been on the end of the season. They justify helping out the north by generally giving them a token regional host. They'll let a team in the top 30 of RPI host a regional instead one of the top 16. Michigan probably would have hosted a few years ago, but the Fish was still under construction. This year, it looks like the token site might be UCONN. They're almost good enough to host as it is, but if they aren't in the top 16-20, I imagine they get the bump.


May 9th, 2010 at 8:52 PM ^

No. No way we make the tourney without winning the Big Ten. Our future opponents both have rather low winning percentages. Northwestern's OWP (which affects our OOWP) is abysmal. It's all or nothing for every Big Ten team.

If we would have won one, but more probably 2-3 against the top 50, we would be on the inside of the bubble. Winning on the road means nothing. That's why teams like Georgia who are 15-30 ish are right around RPI #100 despite playing all their games at home and only beating tomato cans. Michigan's opponent winning percentage and opponents winning percentage have been in a tailspin since we played Fordham and IPFW.

And yes, all of those games were played without LaMarre. Huge loss, but it was what it was. Our team could have hit better against those teams, but they couldn't pull it together fast enough. Pitching was great, no offense.

If you're going to make it in the NCAA tournament, you have to beat some good (not necessarily great) teams and take care of business in conference. A record just over .500 isn't "taking care of businees." From what I've seen the last few years, for a northern school you need at least one great win (Ohio State last year) or two quality wins (top 50, MSU last year) and a .700 record or better in conference. If you don't have that, your Rhode Island last year, snubbed despite a top 50-55 RPI. They lacked the quality wins.


May 10th, 2010 at 8:53 AM ^

This weekend sucked.  12-6, hell even 11-7  look a whole lot better.  Right now, we have to figure out how to win these next 2 series (hopefully sweep one) to get us in the top 3.  Sink to low, and I fear an early BT tourney matchup with OSU - possibly with Wimmers back by then.


May 10th, 2010 at 1:38 PM ^

So after a soul-crushing walk-off loss to the Twins in Game 163 last year, I swore to myself I was never going to the Metrodome again, but broke that rule on Saturday and was treated to another disappointing walk-off loss. Bad things just seem to happen in that place.

Usually I'll agree that the Dome sucks for baseball, but on a day that it snowed in much of the upper part of the state, and was a little too cold and windy to do any serious fishing, it wasn't all that bad to go sit eight rows behind home plate in a t-shirt and enjoy a baseball game on a Saturday afternoon.


May 10th, 2010 at 1:57 PM ^

No doubt that the stadium is a huge boost to the local teams. Several college are using it for games this season. It's kind of reminiscent to the days when the Metrodome would host 24 hours of baseball in a row back in the day. Before the NCAA set in curfews on how late games could go, the stadium would host colleges from every level of the NCAA and NAIA, playing around the clock on the weekends.

And like you said, with just 400-500 people at a game, you get the best seat in the house.


May 10th, 2010 at 4:14 PM ^

And we're back in first place! Michigan State beat Purdue 5-4 today. 4-way tie for first. 4-way tie for last. 2 teams tied in the middle. Everyone within 2 games.

Two elimination series happen next week. OSU plays Iowa and Michigan State plays Indiana. I have to think the losers of those series are out of the running for the BTT. Except that probably means they sweep their last week opponents to get in. Chaos.


May 10th, 2010 at 6:44 PM ^

Just did a bunch of stuff to try and figure out the worst case scenario in the standings. I think I've settled on a 7 way tie for 2nd place at 12-12. It's not that unlikely of a situation, but there are a few reaches (Michigan being swept by Penn State being one of them).