'We're having a good time': UM baseball sweeps rival MSU in season series

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Clearly, Michigan couldn't wait to play its rival again.

After a dominating three-game sweep against Michigan State in East Lansing in mid-April, Michigan won just five of its next 14 games. But the Wolverines found some joy from a familiar foe Tuesday night, scoring nine first-inning runs and holding on for an 11-8 win over the Spartans before 1,734 fans at Ray Fisher Stadium.

Michigan pitcher Willie Weiss fires a pitch in the seventh inning of Tuesday's 11-8 win over Michigan State.

"We're having a good time. We have our rivals," Michigan junior right fielder Clark Elliott said with a big grin. "So it's always nice to beat them up. It's huge for us to get a little momentum going our way.

"It's not been our season so far, but it doesn't mean we can't finish strong."

On Tuesday, Michigan started and finished strong.

Michigan sent 14 batters to the plate in the first inning — six in a row reached at one point, and five in a row at another — to erase the 4-0 lead Michigan State had taken in its half of the inning. The Wolverines' onslaught was headlined by a two-run double by Joe Stewart.

Stewart, who transferred from Michigan State to Michigan over the offseason, had two hits Tuesday, and in four games against his former team this season, he had seven hits, including two home runs, and six RBIs.

In the four meetings, Michigan (26-24, 7-14 Big Ten) outscored Michigan State (23-28, 10-11), 43-19.

Tuesday's game was a nonconference game, but was more than welcome for the Wolverines, who've made the last two NCAA Tournaments and were national runners-up in 2019. They've struggled this season, though, and will need a fine showing in the Big Ten tournament in Omaha, Nebraska. 

Michigan first has a three-game home series this weekend against second-place Rutgers, and needs to skirt total disaster to avoid missing out on the Big Ten tournament at all.

"Momentum is real, it's a real thing in sport," Michigan head coach Erik Bakich said. "I think any win that we get right, any time we play well ... any type of big hits, big plays, anything like that, we're certainly going to use those positives to springboard us into the next game.

"So this one here is great, and we'll take it with us into tomorrow. But tomorrow's a new day."

Michigan’s Jake Marti hustles down the first-base line after hitting a ground ball in the fourth inning.

Michigan State, meanwhile, needs to sweep its final regular-season series, at Nebraska, and then get a whole lot of help if it is to make the eight-team Big Ten tournament. The Spartans haven't made the Big Ten tournament since 2018, missing it in 2019, followed by the tournament's cancellation in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Playing Michigan still brings out the fight in Michigan State, which rallied to within 9-8 in the top of the seventh inning, before senior right-hander Willie Weiss was called on with runners at second and third with one out. With a dandy breaking ball, he struck out two of the next three hitters — one looking and one swinging — while working around a walk, to escape the jam.

Then, Michigan scored again in the seventh, on a bases-loaded walk and an RBI single by junior outfielder Tito Flores (Birmingham Brother Rice). Flores also had an RBI single in the first inning.

Weiss went the final 2⅔ innings for Michigan, allowing no hits and no runs while striking out four. He walked two, but earned his third save. Freshman right-hander Avery Goldensoph (Saginaw Swan Valley), the fifth of Michigan's seven pitches, got the win. He's 2-2.

Juniors Jimmy Obertop and Ted Burton each also had two RBIs for Michigan, which hammered 12 hits against Michigan State's five pitchers. Seven of those hits came in the first inning.

"That was awesome," Obertop said after a game that lasted just three hours, 14 minutes, after the first inning took more than 45 minutes. "Getting to bat twice in an inning is always fun. Everyone just up and down the lineup is just doing their job. It's just fun being a part of that."

Sophomore outfielder Jack Frank had a homer and a double for Michigan State, while junior outfielder Casey Mayes had a two-run triple. Starter Aidan Arbaugh (1-1), a freshman out of Saline, took the loss, lasting just a third of an inning. He was relieved by redshirt freshman right-hander Dominic Pianto, who gave up the last four runs of the first inning and then settled things down with 3.2 scoreless innings after that.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984