Monday, May 22, 2006

A Classic Pitcher's Duel

I've logged out of Blogger about three times now, only to find another reason to sign back in and type. It's no wonder I don't get near enough sleep. Regardless, my latest sign in is due to the fact I want to mention the game I went to Saturday before all the tournament action consumes me.

I saw game one of the doubleheader between Iowa and Michigan. It was simply the best pitched Big Ten game I've ever seen.

Jeff Maitland (pictured at right), who has been great for Iowa all year long, took the mound for the visitors. Freshman Chris Fetter, who has been very solid, as well, countered for the home side. Both got into a bit of trouble early, but neither yielded a run. Each time it appeared a rally might be starting, it was ended in short order.

Both were throwing strikes, keeping hitters off balance and just generally pitching beautifully. Both hurlers worked seven very strong innings. Maitland scattered six hits, Fetter allowed only four. Iowa's lefty walked two batters, Michigan's righthander yielded only one free pass. Neither, unfortunately, were around in the end.

Fetter was replaced by Ben Jenzen in the top of the eighth. Tim Gudex, the Hawkeyes' star closer, came on in relief of Maitland in the bottom of that inning. Michigan had moved runners to second and third with two outs in the 8th when freshman Adam Abraham stepped to the plate.

Gudex went 2-2 on the Michigan leftfielder when his next pitch was called a ball, the controversy began. The Iowa faithful and the Hawkeyes' bench thought the pitch was a strike, thus ending the frame. The umpire disagreed. The man in blue went on to warn Jack Dahm about arguing balls and strikes.

With the count now 3-2, Abraham reached out and poked a single into right scoring the winning run and bringing Michigan within a half game of the conference crown. It also brought a steady stream of profanity from those in Black and Gold, both on and off the field, upon the homeplate ump.

Maitland was charged with the run, but although he took the loss, his effort was outstanding. Fetter was just a little bit better and the final outcome reflected that. It was the best combined pitching performance I've seen at a college game.