Michigan baseball offense slumbers in 7-3 loss to Iowa, one loss from Big Ten elimination

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The steamrolling offense of Michigan baseball, which had piled up 22 runs in the Wolverines’ first two Big Ten tournament games, hit a speed bump Saturday night in Omaha, Nebraska, as Iowa held them to three runs in a 7-3 loss in the first game of the semifinal.

The third-seeded Hawkeyes and fifth-seeded Wolverines will face off again on Sunday, with the winner advancing to the championship against either No. 2 Rutgers or No. 8 Indiana, who played late into the night Saturday after the end of Michigan’s game.

Michigan coach Erik Bakich in the dugout before Game 1 of the championship series of the 2019 College World Series against the Vanderbilt Commodores, June 24, 2019 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
Michigan coach Erik Bakich in the dugout before Game 1 of the championship series of the 2019 College World Series against the Vanderbilt Commodores, June 24, 2019 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

GAME 2: Michigan out-slugs top-seeded Maryland, 15-8, to advance in Big Ten tournament

GAME 1: Michigan blasts Illinois early, late in 7-5 win to advance in Big Ten tournament

RECRUITING: Why Michigan commit (and likely MLB draftee) Greg Pace stuck with Detroit Edison

The Wolverines threatened early, loading the bases in the bottom of the first inning on three hit-by-pitches from Iowa starter Cam Baumann. But Baumann got Riley Bertram, hitting sixth, to hit a weak grounder back to the mound for the third out. After Ted Burton led off the bottom of the second with a double, the Wolverines failed to get another runner past first until the sixth inning.

Meanwhile, Iowa rarely threatened over the first four innings. But after a single by Cade Moss to open the fifth, followed by an error on third baseman Matt Frey on an ensuring bunt by Kyle Huckstorf, the Wolverines were in trouble. Another sac bunt, followed by a four-pitch walk and a strikeout, increased the pressure, and U-M starter Chase Allen buckled. He walked Keaton Anthony, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, to force in the first run of the game.

Walker Cleveland entered in relief of Allen to open the sixth and it went south almost immediately. The Hawkeyes added two more runs with one out, as Huckstorf tripled with runners on first and second, scoring them both to make it 3-0. Michigan finally got on the board with two runs in the sixth on pinch-hitter Jordon Rogers’s bloop single with the bases loaded and two outs. But Burton was thrown out trying to score from first to end the inning.

Emboldened by holding the lead, Iowa tacked on four more runs in the seventh as the Michigan bullpen, a weakness all season, fully imploded with two hit-by-pitches and four straight singles without an out. The final single, by Huckstof, came off freshman Avery Goldensoph before he got the final three outs (two on swinging strikeouts) of the frame. In all, Cleveland, Noah Rennard and Jacob Denner combined to allow six earned runs while getting just three outs.

After scoreless half-innings on both sides, Michigan catcher Jimmy Obertop launched the third pitch of the bottom of the eighth into the left-field stands to make it 7-3. The Wolverines put their next two runners on, forcing Iowa coach Rick Heller to turn to Connor Schultz, normally a member of the Hawkeyes’ rotation. Schultz got the job done, though, with three straight strikeouts.

In the bottom of the ninth, Clark Elliott, who was so effective in Friday’s win over Maryland, finally picked up his first hit in four tries, doubling down the right-field line. But his partner atop the lineup, Joe Stewart, grounded to second, advancing Elliott but using up an out Michigan could hardly afford. Schultz then struck out Frey and got Obertop to ground out to shortstop to force a rematch Sunday.

MAC tournament

Central Michigan 12, Ball State 3: This time, the Chips didn’t wait until the ninth inning to put up runs. The day after CMU fell 9-7 to the top-seeded Cardinals (with five runs in the ninth inning) to force an elimination game Saturday morning – which the second-seeded Chips won, 10-7, over Toledo — CMU scored four runs in the third and another three runs in the fifth to force a winner-take-all game at noon Sunday in Muncie, Indiana. Jakob Marsee went 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI for CMU while Garrett Navarra and Robby Morgan drove in two runs apiece despite going hitless. Navarra was also sharp on the mound, striking out nine while scattering five hits and a walk with one run allowed over six innings. Ryan Palmblad closed out the game for the Chips, allowing two runs over three innings. CMU is looking for its second straight MAC tourney title — the Chips also won the conference in 2021 when no tournament was held — and its first back-to-back tournament titles since 1994-95, while Ball State last won the title in 2006.

Horizon League tournament

Wright State 24, Oakland 0: The Raiders claimed the Horizon League’s berth in the NCAA tournament with authority, scoring in six of the first seven innings — they went down 1-2-3 in the second, somehow — and holding the Golden Grizzlies to just two hits. Cam Post broke up Alex Theis’ no-hitter with a runner on first and one out in the sixth inning with a single up the middle for second-seeded OU. Tristan Haught relieved Theis and retired the next two Golden Grizzlies to end the threat. Peter Jelenic then singled up the middle with two outs in the ninth. Meanwhile, every WSU starter had at least one hit, with three — Alec Sayre, Zane Harris, and Sammy Sass — picking up three each. All three of Sass’ hits were home runs, as he drove in nine runs, while Harris had three doubles to drive in five runs and score five times. The title is Wright State’s eighth since joining the Horizon League in 2002, the most in conference history; five of those titles have come in the past seven tourneys (2015, ’16, ’18, ’21 and ’22).

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan baseball offense slumbers in 7-3 loss to Iowa in Big Ten semi