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Michigan baseball looks to bounce back against Iowa

Paul Sherman/Daily
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By Alex Taylor, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 2, 2013

After soaring to a 10-game winning streak, Michigan baseball has fallen back to earth following back-to-back series losses on the road.

However, the Wolverines (8-7 Big Ten, 22-20 overall) are not only heading into their matchup against Iowa (4-11, 16-22) optimistic for a series win, but are hopeful it translates into a larger win streak for the remainder of the season.

“Things haven’t really gone our way on the road the last couple of weekends, but the tone in the locker room and the mentality of the team is fine,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “Everybody understood that things aren’t as good as they seem and things are never as bad as they seem.”

Michigan returns to action after dropping all three games on the road last weekend to No. 12 Indiana. Sporting one of the best offenses in the conference, if not the country, Indiana scored runs early and often. The Hoosiers were able to capitalize on Michigan’s pitchers leaving the ball up in the zone as well as Indiana’s hitters getting themselves into good hitter’s counts.

The Wolverines’ pitchers will likely have an easier go-around this weekend when they take on an Iowa team that isn’t as potent offensively as the Hoosiers. Iowa does have four hitters with a batting average of .300 or better, but they lack consistency throughout their order.

“They are as pesky and as dangerous as any team is in our conference,” Bakich said. “Statistically they are not going to be on the leader board in many of the categories, but they do enough.”

Michigan will counter Iowa’s offense with the usual trio of left-handers: freshman Evan Hill, sophomore Trent Szkutnik and redshirt junior Logan McAnallen. McAnallen pitched well last weekend, holding Indiana to only one run in 6.1 innings. Szkutnik and Hill struggled a bit, though, and will look to return to their previous form against the Hawkeyes.

“They are a team that is not going to go down quietly, and they’re going to give a fight,” Bakich said. “They are playing for their season too, because they have a really tough road with where they stand in their conference standing.”

But Michigan, who sits sixth in the Big Ten, can improve its position to qualify for the Big Ten conference tournament with a win over 10th place Iowa.

“Our goal all along from the start of the season has been to win the Big Ten conference tournament,” Bakich said. “Our goal was never to win the regular season, it was to win the Big Ten conference tournament because of the implication that it allows us to continue to play.”

The Wolverines should have an easy time getting there. The Iowa series will be the beginning of an eight-game home stretch that includes two weekend series against weaker Big Ten opponents. Michigan has played noticeably better at home too, holding a 9-5 record at Ray Fisher Stadium.

The Wolverines will also benefit from the added free time that comes with the end of the school year. Now, the players can put their full attention to baseball and achieve their goal of qualifying for the Big Ten conference championship.

“We’re in a good spot,” Bakich said. “There isn’t panic from the coaching staff and there’s no panic from the players. Everyone is excited to get back on the field this weekend.”