No. 13 UM Holds off UK Rally, Claim 7-5 Win
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Trailing 7-1 entering the top of the eighth inning, No. 24 Kentucky mounted a furious rally, narrowing the lead to two runs, but No. 13 Michigan held on with UK’s go-ahead run at the plate, securing a 7-5 opening-round win in the Ann Arbor NCAA Regional, on Saturday morning at Wilpon Complex.
The game began on Friday night, but by 8:40 p.m. ET, the game had been called due to heavy rains and threatening weather. The contest resumed at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday in the bottom of the fifth inning, with UK trailing 5-1, two out and runners on first and second.
Kentucky (42-18) mounted a valiant comeback attempt, getting nine men to the plate in the eighth, cutting the lead to 7-5. Sawyer Carroll led off with his 17th home run of the season, a high blast into the teeth of a whipping Michigan wind. Collin Cowgill followed with a single and Ryan Wilkes reached on an error. Brian Spear flew out and Chris Wade got plunked by a pitch to load the bags. Senior Tyler Howe came up with his second RBI of the day, a line-drive single through the right side. With the bags still full of UK runners, pinch hitter Bryan Rose drew an RBI walk and Keenan Wiley hung a first-pitch sacrifice fly into center. Chris McClendon grounded out to end the UK rally.
Michigan chased Kentucky starter Chris Rusin from the game in the second inning, the shortest outing of his career. Rusin lasted 1.1 innings, allowing three hits and five runs – all earned – walking two and throwing just 24 pitches. After not dressing for the Southeastern Conference Tournament last weekend due to a bicep injury, Rusin, a first-team All-SEC selection, appeared to be limited by the injury on the mound at Wilpon Complex. Rusin’s previous shortest outing of his career came in 2007, when the then-sophomore tossed four innings against Auburn. Rusin’s shortest outing of 2008 came vs. Florida, going 4.1 frames.
Aaron Lovett relieved Rusin in the second, pitching 3.1 innings and allowing two hits and one run. Brock Baber and Tommy Warner closed out the contest, with Warner tossing 2.2 scoreless innings, striking out two. Baber came on to start the resumed game and facing a 3-1 count, left a fastball up in the zone, allowing the runner on second to score.
Wiley, Carroll, Wilkes and Howe each finished with a multi-hit performance, with Howe leading the way with two RBI.
Michigan ace starter Zach Putnam (8-0, 2.64 ERA) has tossed five innings, allowing six hits and one run, walking two and striking out four. Putnam has thrown 69 pitches.
Kentucky got on the board first in the second inning, as Wilkes led off with a bunt single, moving to second after Spear singled through the right side. Wade laid down his 19th sac bunt of the season – a school record – and Howe scored Wilkes with an RBI single. With runners on first and third, Putnam executed a fake to first, throw to third pick-off move, nabbing Spear at third. Nidiffer struck out looking to end the threat.
Michigan took the lead with five runs in its half of the second inning, chasing Rusin from the game. After issuing Putnam a lead off walk, Adam Abraham connected with a grounder while Putnam was in motion at first. With Wilkes breaking to cover second base, the ball squeaked through the infield, moving Putnam to third. Kevin Cislo hung a sac fly into centerfield to score Putnam and Derek VanBurskirk and Chris Berset singled, with Berset’s coming as an RBI variety. Ryan LaMarre drew a walk and Jason Christian doubled into the gap, scoring two. With one out and a runner on third, Leif Mahler laid down a squeeze bunt, scoring LaMarre.
UM added a run to its lead to start Saturday’s resumption off, as Adam Abraham had worked a 3-1 count, getting a first pitch fastball from Baber, belting it up the middle for an RBI single, scoring Nate Recknagel, who had reached on a two-out walk from Lovett.
Michigan tacked on another run in the sixth, chasing Baber from the game and extending its lead to 7-1. Berset reached on a one-out single into right and LaMarre drew a walk. Christian singled to the left side of the infield and Mahler tallied his second RBI of the season, a single through the right side. With the bases loaded and one out, Warner induced a double play, getting UK out of the inning.