The 21st-ranked Michigan Wolverines (3-1) were looking forward to making a push back to the College World Series in 2020, but those dreams were dashed for everyone when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the season. All hands are back on deck with a new-look roster that has similar aspirations for the 2021 season.
The Wolverines were back on the field over the weekend to open the 2021 Big Ten Conference-only campaign in Round Rock, Texas. Michigan was able to start the season on a high note in taking three of the four games in the series against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Here is a rundown of what went down in each game.
Win — Willie Weiss (1-0): 2.1 IP, H, 5 K
Loss — Ben Beutel (0-1): 2.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R (1 ER), BB, 3 K
Redshirt sophomore lefty Steve Hajjar got the ball for the Wolverines in the first game of the season and pitched into the seventh inning (6.2 IP), finishing with six hits, two earned runs, eight strikeouts and one walk on the day.
Michigan would take a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning on an RBI double by Jake Marti. The Hawkeyes responded in the bottom of the inning with a run of their own and would tie the game in the seventh, which chased Hajjar off the mound. Christian Molfetta smacked an RBI single up the middle of the field in the top of the eighth to give Michigan a 3-2 lead. Benjamin Sems had an RBI double in the ninth that scored Tito Flores to help seal the 4-2 victory.
Win — Dylan Nedved (1-0): 2 IP, 4 H, 3 R (3 ER), 2 BB
Loss — Cameron Weston (0-1): 4.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R (4 ER), 4 BB, 3 K
Sunday’s first game of the doubleheader was a bit of a rough go for it for the Michigan pitching staff. Starter Cameron Weston was only able to go 4.1 innings and gave up four earned runs on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
Michigan took a 3-2 lead into the fifth inning before the Hawkeyes put up a five-spot in the bottom of the frame and added another in the sixth. The Wolverines’ RBIs on the first game came from Flores and second baseman Riley Bertram.
Win — Jacob Denner (1-0): 5 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 7 K
Loss — Cam Baumann (0-1): 3 IP, 5 H, 6 R (6 ER), 2 BB, 6 K
Any issues Michigan’s pitching had in the first game went away as soon as game two of Sunday’s doubleheader began. The Wolverines’ staff held Iowa to three hits and eight total baserunners in a 7-0 shutout victory.
The contest also saw Michigan flex its power muscles for the first time this season with a pair of home runs in the game. Catcher Griffin Mazur blasted a grand slam out to left-center field to give the Wolverines a 5-0 lead in the second inning. First baseman Jimmy Obertop hit a solo homer to left-center to extend the lead to 6-0 in the third. Michigan would add a run on a throwing error in the sixth inning that brought home Danny Zimmerman.
Denner was terrific on the mound for the Wolverines, going five innings and surrendering a pair of hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. Jack White and Connor O’Halloran combined for four innings of work out of the bullpen with only one hit allowed.
Win — Ben Dragani (1-0)
Loss — Hunter Lee (0-1)
Michigan was able to take its third victory in four games on Monday due to a six-run fifth inning that helped them bust the game wide open in the final game of the series.
Mazur was the hero of the day for the Wolverines again, going 2-for-3 at the plate with his second home run in as many days and four runs batted in. Shortstop Benjamin Sems went 3-for-5 with three RBI on the afternoon, as well. Others that knocked in runs were Flores, Obertop and Christian Bullock.
Starter Blake Beers had a rough go of it with four earned runs given up in 3.1 innings of work. He was picked up by Dragani out of the bullpen, who delivered 3.1 innings of no-hit baseball with a pair of strikeouts. The Michigan bullpen as a whole would only give up one more hit the rest of the day.
Next up for Michigan is a four-game series with Purdue this weekend in Greenville, South Carolina. Game one is on Friday with a doubleheader on Saturday before the series wraps up on Sunday.
Our coverage of the baseball team will expand as we get further into the season, but we will be sticking to series roundups until March Madness is complete. Any writers interested in contributing to baseball (and potentially softball coverage) should reach out via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.