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Michigan set to begin extended road trip

Patrick Barron/Daily
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By Alex Taylor, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 28, 2013

After an inauspicious start to the season, the Michigan baseball team responded by recording its first victory, as well as its first series victory, against Fordham last weekend. But for the Wolverines, the challenge will be sustaining this newfound momentum during their upcoming 10-day road trip.

Michigan (2-4 overall) will travel to Florida to play five games in the Snowbird Invitational before heading to California for the USD Tournament to finish the trip. In total, the team will play a total of nine games over a 10-day stretch.

As the Wolverines return to Florida, they hope to continue their offensive momentum from last weekend. Over the course of four games, they have scored 32 runs off of 40 total hits. A big factor in getting those runs was first getting quality at-bats.

“They did a great job,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “We got a lot of quality at-bats got a lot of big hits, a lot of two-out RBIs. We separated ourselves with some big at-bats.”

Another factor in the offense was the aggressive base running, led by freshman infielder Travis Maezes — who is a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen bases for the season. Michigan has a total of 19 steals in seven games and has only been caught stealing once.

This total has come without arguably the team’s most dynamic base stealer, senior outfielder Patrick Biondi, who’s been limited to one steal this year. Biondi is currently second all-time in career steals at Michigan with 89 and only needs one to tie the all-time record.

“Pat is a tremendous base stealer, he’s very gifted in that category,” Bakich said. “I know his stolen-base numbers don’t reflect that yet, but he’s a guy that at the end of the year, he’s going to have anywhere from 30 to 50 just depending on the opportunities.”

A bright spot for the Wolverines during their first two weekends has been their pitching. Without a true ace at their disposal, they’ve relied on the efforts of sophomore right-hander James Bourque, senior right-hander Ben Ballantine and freshman left-hander Evan Hill.

The Wolverines also took the opportunity to showcase some new pitchers, giving them much-needed game experience. This should prove to be extremely valuable since Michigan’s pitching depth is likely to be tested on the extended road trip.

“We got some guys in there that had not pitched in college to log quite a bit of innings, so that was good,” Bakich said.

At the Snowbird Invitational, Michigan will take on Mount St. Mary’s, Saint Louis, and Georgetown, followed up by a non-tournament game with Florida Gulf Coast.

The Saint Louis and Florida Gulf Coast games are likely to be the toughest challenge for the Wolverines. Saint Louis returns almost all key contributors from a team that made an appearance in the NCAA regionals last year, while No. 23 Florida Gulf Coast is coming off a weekend sweep of No. 13 Florida.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us, we have to absolutely stay locked in game by game, inning by inning, pitch by pitch and keep winning pitches,” Bakich said. “I know this team will keep fighting, that’s the one thing they will do, which is fight till the very end, which is a good sign.”

After Monday’s game against Florida Golf Coast, Michigan will travel to California to prepare for the USD Tournament. While in California, the Wolverines will participate in a team-building activity with U.S. Navy SEALs at their base in Coronado, Calif., much like the activity the Michigan football team’s seniors underwent last summer.

“It will be a great opportunity for us and a great experience,” Bakich said. “It should be a great couple of weeks where we can continue to get better and continue to rack up some great wins for Michigan.”