Weekend Recap: IPFW

This weekend Michigan faced off with IPFW, and did it ever turn out better than the series the weekend before against Arizona.  During the Arizona game, pitching was alright, but wildly inconsistent.  Hitting was doing alright, but couldn’t manage to get runs across the plate.  This weekend, it was all about effectively wild and moving runners around to make them easier to score.  Everything shifted from alright, too pretty good.

Game 1

Box Score R H E
IPFW 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 8 0
Michigan 0 0 2 1 0 1 0 0 x 4 11 0

W – Chris Fetter (3-1)  L – Walker (0-1)    Sv – Burgoon (2)

For my initial reactions, visit my post from Saturday.  The story of this game was pitching.  Chris Fetter, despite the pretty stat line, had a fairly weak start for him.  He admittedly claimed he was just missing his spots, but from the sounds of the radio crew, perhaps he was getting squeezed a little on the corners.  Either way, as mentioned, his stat line was still really good.  Fetter lasted 6 innings, giving up 2 runs (both earned), 7 hits, and 2 walks while striking out 5.  I’d take that out of any pitcher any day of the week, it just happened that this was Fetter on an off day.  He’s just that good.

Following Fetter was Tyler Burgoon for a rare 3-inning save opportunity.  Burgoon only gave up 1 hit and three walks, but did allow three base runners with 2 outs in the 8th.  After a brief talk with Coach Maloney, he struck out the last batter of the inning on 4 pitches.   The rest was a cake walk for Tyler.

On offense, Mike Dufek was the champion in this game, and really, the whole weekend was a Mike Dufek hit-a-thon.  In this game he got the scoring started with a big 2-out double off the wall to plate Cislo and LaMarre.  Dufek would finish the game 2/4 with 2 RBIs.

Notable Stars

  • Mike Dufek – 2/4 2 RBI, 2B
  • Tyler Burgoon – 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 Ks, Save
  • Alan Oaks – 2/4 HR
  • Kevin Cislo – 3/4 R, RBI
  • Fan Attendance – 731 is a solid number for opening day in 40 degree temperatures.  Paul tells me they got to sit right next to former baseball centerfielder Rick Leach (yes, that Rick Leach).

Notable Goats

  • Kenny Fellows – Despite getting a hit and walk, he stranded 4 base runners.  More on stranding runners in the coming days.

Game 2

Box Score R H E
IPFW 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 1
Michigan 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 x 4 6 1

W – Eric Katzman (3-1) L – Herrold (1-1) Sv – Miller (2)

This game probably would have bored half of the casual fans to death.  Outside of the 2 innings, this game was an exercise of either offensive futility, or as I like to call it, good pitching and defensive excellence. Again, check the Saturday Reaction post for my initial thoughts.

Michigan jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first following a pair of singles by Cislo and Fellows and a Ryan LaMarre sacrifice fly.  Two batters later Mike Dufek continued his hit parade with a bomb to right field.  The hit even rattled a few people out of Dance Marathon as the homer hit the indoor track building where DM was taking place.  Huzzah for uncounted attendance watching through the fence!

In the top of the second, Eric Katzman did his best sabotage effort.  After giving up a lead off single, he then committed a throwing error on a pick off at first.  The ball got away far enough from Dufek to allow the runner to second.  Later on in the at-bat, Katzman balked the runner over to third.  The explanation was hazy from the announcers as they didn’t see it either, but they believe he didn’t come to a full pause in the set position.  He followed this up by giving up a sacrifice fly.  If you ask me that’d be an earned run as it was all Katzman for letting him score, but baseball rules say its unearned.

The rest of the game Katzman was straight dealing.  While he still was fairly inconsistent in hitting the strike zone, he managed to be just controlled enough to garner 10 Ks (!), a career high.  Katzman was coming at the batters with many off speed pitches, including breaking balls and change ups.  They were left just off balance by the several balls in the dirt that they were guessing most of the night.

Katzman was by no way economical with his pitches.   Over his 6 innings, Katzman threw 100 pitches, only 61 of which were strikes.  Ideally, he’d be hitting the century mark somewhere late in the 7th inning.   Just for the sake of comparison, the IPFW pitcher threw all 8 innings and only threw 105 pitches.  This trend of high pitch counts and early exits appear to be the normal thing for Katzman.

After Katzman left, Matt Miller entered the game for another 3-inning save opportunity – not so rare I guess.  Miller picked up right where Katzman left off, striking out 5 in his 3 innings.  He only allowed one hit and one walk in that time as well.

Offense for Michigan after the 2nd inning was horrendous.  Not once from the third to eighth innings did Michigan ever get more than 3 batters up to the plate.  Alan Oaks ended two innings with ground ball double plays.  LaMarre got doubled up on a line drive back to the pitcher, which I can feel alright about as that’s just the luck of the draw.  In another inning we got picked off at first.  I can’t say we wasted opportunities, but we sure didn’t make the most of our base runners in this game.

Notable Stars

  • Eric Katzman – 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 10 K, 2 BB, W
  • Matt Miller – 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K, Save
  • Mike Dufek – 1/2 2-run-HR, BB
  • LOB – 0 runners left on base?

Notable Goats

  • Eric Katzman in the 2nd inning – 1B, E1, Balk, SAC FLY
  • Alan Oaks – 2 inning ending double plays

Game 3

Box Score R H E
IPFW 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 11 3
Michigan 0 0 2 0 0 3 1 3 x 9 14 0

W – Travis Smith (3-2)  L – Baatz (0-1)

IPFW had every chance in the world to take this game, but Mike Wilson and Travis Smith became master escape artists every time the pressure was put on.  They did just enough to get out of a couple of jams, and the offense finally started to roll by the 6th inning.

Mike Wilson continued the “wildly effective” pitching routine portrayed by Eric Katzman the day before.  Despite throwing first pitch strikes to 13 of his first 18 batters, Wilson quickly fell behind batters and was forced into making hitters’ pitches.  When it came to crunch time, Wilson locked down and made his pitches.  He stranded 8 base runners on the afternoon in just 5 innings of play.

Wilson did give up one run in the third inning.  After a lead off double and two quick outs, Wilson gave up back to back singles.  I guess there just wasn’t enough pressure on him, so he tried to get runners on first and third so he could pitch better?

The run gave IPFW a short-lived 1-0 lead, their last lead of the game.  Mike Dufek answered in the bottom half of the third with yet another home run, his second in as many games.  The home run also extended his hitting streak to 10 games. According to the broadcasters, the ball landed in the Alumni Stadium, the softball field, well past the fence of the Ray Fisher Stadium.  Wow.

Travis Smith came in with a 2-0 lead at this point and was throwing gas.  His control wasn’t quite there, but he also managed to work himself out of jams.  Smith stranded 4 base runners in 3 innings of work.  He did allow one run to score in the 6th, leaving Wilson with a no decision.  Kalczynski was crossed up on a pitch which lead to a passed ball.  This moved a runner to second, who then would score on an ensuing single.

With the score tied at two in the 6th, Michigan came back to answer in the bottom of the inning.  John Lorenz had the big hit with two outs, a home run to left field.  This sparked the offense as Toth and Cislo (career high 15 game hit streak) both followed up with singles setting the stage for a Kenny Fellows double off the right field wall.  Unfortunately Fellows thought he was a little faster than he was, getting caught trying to stretch it into a triple.  Michigan was then up 5-2 and would never look back.

Michigan would add another in the 7th following a Dufek double and Alan Oaks single.  Yet again, we had a batter runner thrown out trying to stretch for an extra base.  Oaks wasn’t nearly fast enough to stretch it into a double.  I appreciate the aggressiveness from Oaks, but just because he scored on a suicide squeeze in game one doesn’t mean he can barrel into second on a shallow hit to the outfield.

Michigan added two more in the 9th.  After back-to-back singles by Kalczynski and Lorenz, Cislo went to sacrifice bunt.  The pitcher fielded the bunt poorly then made a hurried attempt to second which skipped to the bag.  Everyone was safe.  Fellows followed that with a single to score two runs.  LaMarre then hit a soft pop up between the center fielder and the second basemen.  The ball popped out of the second basemen’s glove as the two players collided.  Both players were alright and stayed in the game.  Cislo scored from third on the play, but Fellows was forced out at second as it wasn’t clear if the ball was caught.  He stayed close to first in case he had to tag.  Tough out, but at least the two outfielders were okay.

Mike Dufek came in after this and closed out the game.  Michigan won the game and it’s first home series of the year.  Things were good and “Celebrate Good Times” was played.

Notable Stars

  • Kenny Fellows – 2/5  4 RBI, 2B
  • Alan Oaks – 3/4 RBI
  • Mike Dufek – 2/4  2 R, 2 RBI, HR, 2B
  • John Lorenz – 3/4  2 R, RBI, HR
  • Kevin Cislo – 15 game hitting streak

Notable Goats

  • Ryan LaMarre – Only starter without a hit, hitless all weekend

First Inning Shenanigans

For those of you who didn’t listen to the game, there was a bit of a commotion in the top of the first inning.  With runners on first and third, Wilson threw a pitch toward the plate that was well low and inside.  The pitch bounced in the front of the batter’s box and bounced off toward the IPFW dugout.

Kalczynski didn’t hustle right after the ball, which sent the runners going.  The runner from third scored easily, and the runner from first came all the way around as none of the players on the field knew where the ball went to… or did they? Comes to find out the umpire didn’t see the ball hit off the batter.

The umpires conferenced after Coach Maloney and Timmy Kal made their case.  They made the ruling that the batter was hit by the pitch.  Both runs were taken off the board and the batter was given first base without even arguing.  I know if I was hit but they gave me the choice of first base with the bases loaded and one out or 2 runs in and me still at bat, I’d be hollering in that umpire’s ear that there was no way I was touched by the pitch.  IPFW didn’t even attempt to argue, which worked out really poorly for them.  Wilson struck out the next two batters stranding the bases loaded.  The crises was averted and Michigan didn’t have to worry about being down 2-0 right out of the shoot.

Lineup Shuffling

Coach Maloney has been shuffling the lineup frequently of late.  With Alan Oaks now available after missing the first month with sickness and with Chris Berset still unavailable after I believe a broken thumb, there have been a couple attempts to balance out the lineup.  Most of the activity has been centered around Jake McLouth at DH, Oaks in RF or at DH, Urban in RF or at 3B, and Lorenz at 3B.

Jake McLouth has been cooling off since my initial inquiry about him switching with Dufek in the lineup.   I took another look at the stats before game 3 of the weekend to see how the two had been doing.  I don’t think it’s worth going into deeply here, but long story short, Dufek has caught fire.  His current 10 game hitting streak started the day the change took place.  Coincidence? Yes, probably.  Good for the team?   Of course.  So do I care that much?  No.  I don’t see the two switching in the near future, but if McLouth doesn’t keep producing, he may be run out of the DH spot.

Who would take it you ask?  That would be Alan Oaks.  Oaks returns after a bit of an illness to start the season.  Last year, Oaks made several starts at third base doing pretty well.  Alan offers some major power and appears to be getting hot right now.  This weekend he hit for a .545 clip with 2 runs and an RBI.  Not bad for hitting in the 6/7/8 holes.

The other alternative to Oaks in the DH is to place him in right field, where he is a slight drop in defensive prowess.  Moving him here forces Urban either to the bench, such as in Game 3, or to play third base, such as in Game 2.  Urban came to Michigan as a second basemen, so he does have infield experience.  I’m not sure what to expect of him at third, but it probably couldn’t be too much worse than Lorenz has been there.

Lorenz hasn’t been too poor defensively at third base, but his .895 fielding percentage does leave a little bit to be desired.  He’s been our best option there so far, and I don’t think he’s done too poorly at the hot corner.  The first few weekends he wasn’t really tested too much and had a couple early season mental mistakes.  He’s become pretty solid there over the last 2 weekends, flashing some great leather.  His hitting has been his week point, despite his performance in Game 3.  From what I can see (read: my opinion), Lorenz has great potential, he just will only show flashes of it this year, and not be very consistent at the plate.   He’ll be really good in a year or two.

Final Thoughts on IPFW

IPFW is a good team that will knock off a few good teams this year.  They just ran into a more talented team this weekend.   They should compete with Centenary and Oral Roberts for the Summit League Championship this year. I at least hope so, as with their current RPI, sweeping them didn’t help us that much with our own RPI.  We have moved from 134 as of Tuesday to only 117 on Sunday morning.  EMU helped even less as they are currently about 20 spots lower in RPI than IPFW.

Speaking of EMU, it’s just one game left before we start the conference season.  We finish the home-and-home with EMU on Wednesday at 3pm.  Right now the weather says 51 degrees and a 40% chance of rain.  We’ll see if the game isn’t bumped up earlier in the week or if they try to play it then.

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