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UM ousted from Big Ten tourney, awaits NCAA fate

By Jacob Shames
Special to The Detroit News
Michigan second baseman Ako Thomas makes a play during Thursday's elimination game against Indiana.

Bloomington, Ind. — Another day, more late-inning drama.

With two runners on in the bottom of the 13th inning, Indiana left fielder Alex Krupa ended the longest game in Big Ten Tournament history — four hours and 28 minutes — when he drove a base hit down the left-field line to score center fielder Craig Dedelow, lifting the sixth-seeded Hoosiers and ending the No. 2 seed Michigan's Big Ten tournament title hopes with a 5-4 elimination game victory on Thursday at Bart Kaufman Field.

BOX SCORE: Indiana 5, Michigan  4 (13 inn.)

“What a great college baseball game,” said Indiana coach Chris Lemonis. “It’s tough that somebody has to lose a game like that. Both teams competed, fell behind, came back — just a very resilient effort by our group.”

When Michigan left-hander Oliver Jaskie faced the Hoosiers back in April, he surrendered a leadoff homer to second baseman Tony Butler — the only run of the game. Thursday’s game nearly began the same way, as Butler drove Jaskie’s offering to deep left field. But left fielder Miles Lewis threw his arm over the bullpen fence to grab the ball and prevent Michigan from falling into an early hole.

Instead, it was the Wolverines (42-15) that quickly jumped out in front. First baseman Jake Bivens led off the second inning with a single to right, stole second and scored when right fielder Jonathan Engelmann bounced a single to center. Center fielder Johnny Slater drove in Engelmann with a double to deep center, and Indiana was fortunate to avoid falling behind 3-0, as the ball bounced over the fence, forcing Thomas to hold at third.

Jaskie was commanding throughout the first six innings, allowing just two hits and striking out seven. But Michigan was unable to pull away due to a slew of missed opportunities. Notably, Lewis lined out with two men on in the first inning and Michael Brdar grounded out with two in scoring position an inning later, and despite having 10 baserunners through the first six frames, the Wolverines couldn’t extend their lead.

Those wasted chances finally came back to haunt Michigan in the seventh inning. Indiana's Luke Miller led off with a four-pitch walk, and Jaskie made his lone mistake: Dedelow turned on the first pitch he saw and tied the score with a mammoth blast to right field.

“That was maybe the only miscue or error in Oliver’s day. I thought he was outstanding,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “He attacked the strike zone, gave us a chance, held them off balance and held them off base for basically the first five, six innings. That’s exactly what we needed, a quality start out of him.”

Despite this sudden shift in momentum, Jaskie remained composed. He struck out two hitters and stranded a runner at first to end the frame.

The Wolverines came right back to threaten in the eighth when third baseman Drew Lugbauer singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. This time, Bivens delivered, blooping a single into short left field. Krupa couldn’t pick it up cleanly, allowing Lugbauer to score easily.

A 3-2 lead in the eighth inning normally would lead to a Michigan victory, with Mac Lozer and Jackson Lamb holding down the back end of the bullpen. But that was not the case Wednesday against Northwestern, as Lamb allowed three runs for his first blown save.

It was also not the case Thursday. Lozer conceded a leadoff double to Indiana's Jeremy Houston, who eventually scored on a groundout. With two outs, Miller, Dedelow and right fielder Logan Sowers gave the Hoosiers (33-21-2) the lead with three straight singles.

Michigan had one last gasp. With one out in the ninth, Thomas was hit by a pitch, but Indiana left-hander Lloyd struck out Slater, and the Wolverines found themselves one out away from an early tournament exit.

Brdar wouldn’t let that happen, and neither would Lugbauer. After Brdar poked a single into right field, Lugbauer beat the Hoosiers’ infield shift with a base hit into left to score Thomas.

The score would remain 4-4 until the final inning, but there was no shortage of drama. Neither Michigan or Indiana was ready to go home, and it showed on the field. Thomas and Brdar both made highlight-reel defensive plays to end the ninth and 10th innings, respectively.

Both offenses had chances in extra innings. In the 12th, Lugbauer drew a walk and Lewis singled to left field. With no outs, Bivens squared to bunt on the first pitch, but Hoosiers catcher Ryan Fineman saw Lugbauer leaning off second and made a perfect throw to pick him off.

Indiana put a runner on second in the 11th inning, when first baseman Matt Gorski singled and then stole second. An inning later, Houston reached third by way of a fielder’s choice, a passed ball and a groundout. However, the Michigan bullpen stranded both runners.

“Lot of little plays under the microscope,” Bakich said. “Both teams had opportunities throughout the game and big defensive plays, big pitches, big hits were made by both teams.”

But Indiana made the biggest hit of the day.

Michigan’s season is far from over — an NCAA Tournament bid in all likelihood awaits. But it will be a frustrating four days until the Wolverines learn their fate Monday. They’ll be able to focus on improving and preparing for a regional berth, but the knowledge of what could have been will stick with them.

“We’d rather be playing throughout this weekend,” Brdar said. “But we’re going to get back home, lift tonight, rest, recover, get our eyes set on what we have in store in the future.”

Added Bakich: “I always feel good about these guys. Even though we had a poor showing there’s no question about the fight and character of this group. There’ve been two times this season where we’ve had back to back losses and we’ve rebounded very well both times.

“This will piss them off. They wanted to be Big Ten Champions. We didn’t get that done, but they’ll get better this week and whatever happens, wherever we’re fortunate enough to go, we’ll be ready.”

Jacob Shames is a freelance writer.

Big Ten tournament

When: Wednesday-Sunday

Where: Bart Kaufman Field, Bloomington, Ind.

Format: Double-elimination; top eight teams in final regular-season standings qualify.

TV: All games on Big Ten Network

SCHEDULE

Wednesday

Game 1: 3 seed Minnesota 5, 6 seed Indiana 4

Game 2: 7 seed Northwestern 6, 2 seed Michigan 4

Game 3: 1 seed Nebraska 15, 8 seed Purdue 9

Game 4: 4 seed Maryland vs. 5 seed Iowa, postponed

Thursday

Game 5: Indiana 5, Michigan 4 (13 inn.)

Game 4: 5 seed Iowa 9, 4 seed Maryland 8

Game 6: Maryland 5, Purdue 2

Friday

Game 7: Minnesota vs. Northwestern, 10 a.m.

Game 8: Nebraska vs. Iowa, 1:30 p.m.

Game 9: Loser Game 7 vs. Indiana, 5 p.m.

Game 10: Loser Game 8 vs. Maryland, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday

Game 11: Winner Game 10 vs. Winner Game 7, 10 a.m.

Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 8, 1:30 p.m.

Game 13 (if necessary): Winner Game 11 vs. Loser Game 11, 5 p.m.

Game 14 (if necessary): Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 12, 8:30 p.m.

Sunday

Championship: Winner Game 11/13 vs. Winner Game 12/14, 2 p.m.