Welp, it’s a good thing the Big Ten Tournament is double elimination.
In the Michigan baseball team’s first game of their Big Ten Championship defense, the Wolverines were simply crushed by the Iowa Hawkeyes, giving up six runs in the fifth inning and four in the seventh in a 13-3 eight-inning blowout.
It was an unusually poor showing from the newly crowned Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Connor O’Halloran, and one that at the beginning of the game seemed unfathomable. Though an early fielding hiccup from right fielder Joey Velazquez set up a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the second, O’Halloran kept things under control for the better part of 4.2 innings — allowing just three hits and striking out seven in that time frame.
Staring down two outs in the fifth however, Iowa got the jump on O’Halloran, knocking four hits — including a grand slam from right fielder Brayden Frazier — to take a 7-1 lead and send Michigan’s ace packing.
@brayden_frazier goes 373 feet for our ninth grand slam of the year!!!! #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/fOdMjGo8kx— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) May 23, 2023
With the strength of the bullpen already weakened from an injury to Chase Allen a few weeks ago, head coach Tracy Smith turned to reliever Ahmad Harajli in the sixth inning to prevent a strong inning becoming a full-on rout for the Hawkeyes. While he initially succeeded in slowing down Iowa’s offense, the Hawkeyes once again got the better of the Wolverines in the bottom of the seventh — scoring four additional runs off an RBI single and a 3-run homer off the bat of Sam Petersen.
On the Wolverines’ side of the scorecard, the lineup didn’t have any answers to staunch the bleeding, despite a home run from Tito Flores in the top of the sixth. Though Michigan initially staved off the run rule, two runs from Iowa in the bottom of the eighth took their lead over the mark, putting the game on ice at 13-3 after eight innings.
The Wolverines will play the loser of two-seed Indiana and seven-seed Illinois on Wednesday to stave off elimination, with the first pitch scheduled for 8 pm EDT on Big Ten Network.