Ann Arbor — The Wolverines battled Oakland University in extra innings in their home finale Tuesday night at the Wilpon Complex but lost 6-5 in the 10th, despite four hits from Cody Bruder.
The Wolverines came back from a 5-2 deficit in the ninth to pull even in an effort to get out of their late season slump.
Michigan — which entered the night 34-16 — gave up one run with a balk, another on a wild pitch and a third on an error to trail by three in the sixth.
The Wolverines, the defending Big Ten tournament champions and ranked No. 16 earlier this month before a 5-6 slide, still have some work to do before getting into postseason play. They are sitting fifth in the standings with a 12-8 league record and have to earn a win in their regular-season final three-game series at Illinois this weekend to clinch a spot in the eight-team conference tournament set for May 25-29 in Omaha, Nebraska.
The same can be said for Michigan State (33-15, 12-9), which sits sixth and plays host to Maryland (11-10 Big Ten). Both series get underway Thursday and conclude Saturday.
The Wolverines battled back from a 2-0 deficit, pulling even with RBI singles from Bruder and Carmen Benedetti in the fifth. But they gave the runs back in the sixth.
Things looked good for them after left-handed reliever William Tribucher fanned Myles Zillinsky for the second out with runners on second and third before balking in one run and having the other score when Mac Lozer replaced Tribucher and uncorked a wild pitch.
Benedetti (Grosse Pointe South) hit the ball hard all game and finally got rewarded with an RBI single to right in the fifth to pull the Wolverines even at 2.
Benedetti, an All-American last year, entered the night with a .333 average but with 31 RBIs, 22 fewer than at this time a year ago when he ended up with a team-high 71.
Benedetti hit a hard grounder to first, which was bobbled, then picked up for the final out to strand two runners in the seventh. He also hit a liner to first in the opening inning which led to Bruder getting doubled off first.
The Wolverines were in a hole after Ryan Nutof (6-2) gave up a two-out two-run home run to cleanup hitter Tyler Pagano in the opening inning. Despite hitting .311 as a team to rank 10th nationally, they failed to pick up the timely hit, aside from Bruder and Benedetti in the fifth, and Bruder's bases-clearing double in the ninth.
Nutof pitched his way out of a jam in the third, striking out two and getting Ben Hart to fly out to strand Zach Sterry who had a leadoff double for the Grizzlies (22-24).
Michigan has made it tough on itself this month to be in the position of still needing a win to assure itself a spot in the Big Ten tournament.
Michigan was ranked No. 16 nationally heading into its April 29-May 1 series with rival MSU, defeating the Spartans 4-3 in the opener to improve to 29-10 and 9-3 in the conference. However, the Spartans won the final two games, which started Michigan’s slide, including a three-game sweep at the hands of Ohio State last weekend when it gave up 18 runs.
The Wolverines have a strong RPI, a Big Ten-high 29 which should go a long way to a possible at-large spot in the NCAA tournament if they make the conference tournament, but fall short of repeating as conference tourney champs.
The same can’t be said for the Spartans who sit at 67 in the RPI.
(At) Central Michigan 12, Michigan State 1: The Spartans dropped their final road game of the season. Three CMU pitchers combined to hold the Spartans (33-16) to four hits. CMU is 19-34.