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.
- Alan Oaks – 7ip, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K, Win
- Tyler Burgoon – 2 ip, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 K
- Olive Garden Fettuccini Alfredo – Reports had several players a bit sick before the game.
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.
- Bobby Brosnahan – 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (3 of those were Ben Heath)
- Brandon Sinnery – 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R
- Anthony Toth – 3/5, R, RBI
- Mike Dufek – 2/3, 3 RBI, 2B
- Wood, Gerbe, Katzman’s 9th inning – 0 IP, 5 R, 5 H, BB, HBP, L
- Coley Crank – 1/5, K, 5 LOB
- Lorenz – Error for an unearned run
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.
- Matt Miller – 7.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K. HUGE W.
- Ryan LaMarre – 2/3, 3 RBI, R, BB, sac fly
- Anthony Toth – 1/4, 2 R, RBI, 2 K, 3B
- Rich Maloney? – Starting Sinnery seemed weird to me. Having thrown the day before, it seemed like the plan might have been to go to Miller all along. If it wasn’t, I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of starting a guy the day after he is used in the pen, even if it is for 2 batters and however many warm ups he took waiting to get in the game.
- Coley Crank – 0/4, BB, 2 K, 3 LOB
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.