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Offensive outburst, ex-Spartan lead UM baseball to dominating sweep over MSU

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Forget the home cookin'.

Maybe it's some visitor fare that might just turn the season around for Michigan's baseball team.

"You know, I've thought that a few times now," Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich said with a laugh Sunday. "So I'm probably not going to speak too soon.

"I do think we are playing much better these last couple of weekends."

Michigan's Joe Stewart, who transferred from Michigan State, had two homers in a series sweep against his old team this weekend.

After sweeping Cal-State Fullerton last weekend, Michigan's offense really came to life this weekend, to the tune of 32 runs on the strength of eight runs, as the Wolverines swept rival and series host Michigan State, capped by a 6-3 win at McLane Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Michigan improved to 20-15 (6-3 Big Ten) with a three-game series against Ohio State coming up next weekend.

It's the first three-game sweep for Michigan against Michigan State since 2019. and the Wolverines have won 15 of the last 17 games in the series.

Starring in the series finale was graduate-student outfielder Joe Stewart, who transferred to Michigan from Michigan State. He hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning to dead center field.

He finished his trot around the bases by stomping on home plate. It was his second homer of the series, after he was hit in the head with a fastball in the series opener Friday. Stewart has five homers and 24 RBIs this season, both stats matching his season total from last year at Michigan State.

"It was awesome," Bakich said of Stewart's weekend performance. "I'm very happy for him. He's an extremely deserving kid, a hard worker, you knew he's always had the ability and the potential.

"It's just great to see his potential be unlocked. He's just having a really good senior season."

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Michigan junior infielder Tito Flores (Birmingham Brother Rice) hit his 10th homer, and leads the team.

The series opened Friday at Jackson Field in Lansing, home of the Lansing Lugnuts. It was Michigan's first time playing there under Bakich, and the Wolverines would love another booking.

Michigan clobbered six home runs in the 18-6 win, with three by junior Clark Elliott before a crowd of 4,242 on a night when the wind was blowing out hard the Wolverines took full advantage. Stewart, Flores and graduate student Matt Frey also homered. Michigan scored in all but two innings.

On Saturday, at McLane Stadium, Michigan won, 8-2, behind a strong outing from junior right-hander Cameron Weston, who allowed two runs on two hits over seven innings. He struck out nine.

"I'm just really happy that we're just playing consistently good," said Bakich, who's taken Michigan to four of the last six NCAA Tournaments, including a runner-up showing in 2019. "We have already proven this year we can beat anybody, and we can lose to anybody.

"It's good to see our guys playing well, because we've seen the other side of it."

Michigan has fallen out of Baseball America's latest NCAA Tournament field projection. Only Central Michigan (23-10) is projected to make it among state-of-Michigan programs.

Michigan State, which last made the NCAA Tournament in 2012, fell to 13-19 (2-7 Big Ten). It hosts Oakland on Tuesday and Eastern Michigan on Wednesday before a three-game weekend series at Northwestern.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984