Michigan came back in this one. The game started out as a pitcher's duel. Shaw for Illinois came out impressively. Over his first 6 2/3 innings, Shaw only gave up 1 run on 4 hits, 4 BB, and 7 Ks. After that he gave up 2 hits, 2 BB, and 3 runs without recording a single out. After intentionally walking Recknagel, you would have thought the Illinois coaching staff would have removed him from the game. At that point Shaw had already thrown 122 pitches. He then went and walked Putnam on 6 pitches. Again, why was he not pulled? Against Abraham the floodgates opened for Michigan. Abraham hit a 2 RBI single to give Michigan a lead they would never relinquish. For the first two to three innings I couldn't get my head around the fact Shaw got the start. He had only mixed success against Michigan early in the season giving up 4 runs in 4 innings. Recknagel and VanBuskirk were the only Michigan starters not to register a hit against him. Kudos to Coach Hartleb for making the right call in starter. Even the picks at relief pitcher made sense despite the radio announcers' lack of understanding. Sterk and Reeser both had great success against Michigan during the season. Even Stankiewicz, who had done meh against Michigan had been one of the hotter relievers down the stretch.
For Michigan, Putnam went 7 innings on the mound to secure the win. He allowed 2 runs on 5 hits, 3 walks and 9 strikeouts. Powers came in to start the 8th inning, going 2 innings allowing 1 hit with 3 strike outs to earn the save. The ultimate turning point in the game came from a resilient Putnam to finish off Illinois in the 5th inning. Down 3-0 in the count, Putnam battled back with 3 straight fouled off pitches to force the count full. Each of the fouled attempts was accompanied by both base runners going on the pitch. The fourth time was a charm for Putnam as he struck out Bonadonna and McMurray was caught stealing at third. Michigan's offense woke up the next inning to score their first run and begin the comeback.
Offensively, the hero has to be Adam Abraham. The 2 out single to give Michigan the lead and extend the inning was the beginning of the end for Illinois. Abraham finished the night going 1/3 with 1 run, 2 RBIs, and a walk.
A couple notes that caught my eye during the game:
- The grass at the Fish plays ground balls slowly. Normally you see that with a team that bunts often or a team that faces a team that hits a lot of hard grounders. I'm not sure why Michigan keeps it that way. Although we bunt a bit, we seem to hit several ground balls through the infield.
- I heard several moans and groans about the home plate umpire's strike zone not only in our game, but in the game before ours as well. The radio guys were very adamant about how odd the strike zone was.
- The radio guys are fairly decent. The one who sounds like he might be high during the broadcast doesn't know the difference between a pitcher and a DH though. He said if VanBuskirk would have touched a foul ball and dropped it, it would be fair and count as a hit. For those of you who aren't baseball savvy, that is very wrong. He also went on a rant about Bonadonna not having a homerun all season not 2 seconds after his partner just talked about Bonadonna's homerun last night. I'll discount their not knowing players names as they didn't call too many games this season. They did do their homework on stats though. Most of my notes during the game were flubs by the guy who I still think was stoned.
So now we will face Purdue. I started researching them some today. I have no idea who they start against us. Looking through last season's head to head comparison, the only pitcher I've seen with great success as a starter was Sedlmeyer, who hasn't started a game in weeks. Their closer Linblom though also had some good numbers. I'll try to get something out during the day tomorrow. No promises as its a half day at the office.