Michigan split a doubleheader with Eastern Michigan today. The Eagles topped the Wolverines in the opener, 10-2. Michigan captured the finale, 10-7. Nate Recknagel's bomb in the first contest was really the only highlight for the Big Ten leaders. I caught the majority of the nightcap on Comcast Local. I didn't even know it was on. Channel flipping does pay off. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. A few things immediately caught my attention.
First, Michigan apparently didn't play very inspired baseball in the opener and Coach Maloney discussed that during his game two interview. He didn't look too happy. Losing by eigth at home doesn't make coaches happy.
Second, I saw fellow blogger Sam hard at work taking photos and keeping score, of course. It wasn't hard to spot Samara. She was one of about thirty in attendance. Regardless, I am in awe of Sam's persistence. If I were a betting man, I'd bet Sam has these photos uploaded sometime tonight. Probably very late tonight/early tomorrow between following the Red Sox game, studying and yet another cup of coffee.
Third, EMU was up in the second game, 5-0, after one inning.
Now, the Eagles aren't a bad baseball team, but Michigan is ranked as high as eighteenth. If they want to keep that spot, they need to play like the 18th best team in the land in their own backyard. In addition, Big Ten schools simply cannot afford to dismiss these games. I know coaches struggle to find dependable midweek pitchers and they love to rest an everyday player or two, but the programs in the Big Ten must win these midweek encounters.
You are not guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament unless you win the conference tourney and just about anything is possible in a double elimination format. Thus, it's imperative for Michigan, or anyone else in need of an at-large bid, to win these midweek games. Losing them only hurts your RPI and diminishes your at-large chances. Last year, midweek losses hurt both the Wolverines and Ohio State. I'm not sure Michigan makes the field last year if they don't win the conference tournament.
I began to think EMU was going to pull a sweep when a six run fourth inning catapulted Michigan to a triumph in the finale. Doug Pickens had three hits, Chris Berset and Jason Christian each drove in two runs. Adam Abraham pitched the last four innings and got his second win of the year.
Illinois beat Illinois State, 18-4. Coach Hartleb's squad put aside any thoughts of losing early with a five run second inning followed by four in the third. Freshman 3B Brandon Wikoff had three hits, including his first HR, and drove in three. Lars Davis, continuing his bid for Player of the Year, homered, drove in two and walked twice. (Hey, I wouldn't pitch to the guy, either.) Mike Rohde, fresh off being named to the BTH All-Weekend Team, stayed hot by going 2 for 4 with three RBI and scoring twice. CF Craig Lutes had three hits, drove in four and scored twice. Aaron Martin's (2-2) six hits over six innings was good enough for the win.
Iowa beat Northern Illinois, 4-3. I don't see a boxscore, so as to not repeat what the Hawkeyes' SID typed, you can read his recap. I can tell you Mike Schurz posted his seventh save, which I am guessing leads the Big Ten. Chase Stephens collected his first win.
Minnesota did lots of yardwork in their 7-6 win over South Dakota State. Nate Hanson led the way with two homers. Matt Nohelty hit his first big fly of the year and Dan Lyons went yard for the fifth time in '07. Hanson had three hits, four RBI and scored twice. Lyons had two hits, two runs and two RBI. Phil Zander's four innings of one hit relief earned him his first win. Josh Oslin matched Iowa's Mike Schurz with his seventh save. (I still think that must be tops in the conference.)
Ohio State followed in Michigan's path as the Buckeyes dropped the opener of their doubleheader with Ball State. BSU won, 5-0. I'm searching for an OSU highlight. The Bucks managed only four hits in the loss. Just like their arch-rival, Ohio State rebounded to take game two of the twinbill. The Buckeyes prevailed, 3-2. All-Conference catcher Eric Fryer had two hits and drove in all three OSU runs. Josh Edgin picked up with win. Jake Hale notched, of course, his seventh save. Didn't everybody get save number seven today? Can you tell I edit this as I go instead of waiting to do it all at the end?
As I had to finish up the All-Weekend Team, watch the EMU at Michigan game and toss in this recap, OPS Wednesday will have to be OPS Thursday this week. That's the plan for now, anyway.