Junior first baseman Jake Bivens led off for the No. 13 Michigan baseball team Sunday by being hit by a pitch. Despite notching only one hit, the Wolverines (7-5 Big Ten, 31-9 overall) would go on to score four runs in the inning, highlighted by sophomore designated hitter Nick Poirier’s RBI single to left field.
Over the course of the season, Michigan coach Erik Bakich has emphasized a hard-nosed mentality, which clearly is apparent in the Wolverines’ aggression in the early stages of games.
When scoring in the first inning this season, Michigan is 18-1, and it is unbeaten when holding a lead after the frame.
“It’s good to get a lead and establish a lead and hold a lead,” Bakich said. “But I like this group’s ability to be tough and gritty and be able to come back like we have a few times this year when we’ve been down or it’s been close.”
Michigan’s gritty, aggressive mentality was certainly put on display Sunday against Indiana (8-5-1 Big Ten, 21-15-2 overall), as it was coming off two losses to the Hoosiers earlier this weekend.
“[Coach] wants us to be on the attack from the first pitch,” Bivens said. “That’s something he preaches, just be aggressive from the first jump and then carry that through the whole game.”
The Wolverines stormed out of the gates in the first inning Sunday. After Bivens reached first, senior centerfielder Johnny Slater walked and senior shortstop Michael Brdar was hit by a pitch.
Junior third baseman Drew Lugbauer subsequently walked, sending Bivens home for Michigan’s first run. Indiana starting pitcher Pauly Milto then tossed a wild pitch, sending Slater home.
Redshirt sophomore Miles Lewis grounded out to first, allowing Brdar to stride home for the Wolverines’ third run. Finally, Poirier singled to left to drive home Lugbauer for Michigan’s fourth run of the inning.
The Wolverines would go on to pick up five more runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by a solo home run from Slater, and three runs in the eighth inning to solidify their win.
“I think in college athletics, when you’re 18 to 22, your confidence is such a big intangible that we talk about and all college athletes talk about,” Bakich said. “I think any time you can get a lead, everyone is able to take a deep breath.”
Heading into the latter portions of the season, Michigan’s aggression in the first inning will prove to be valuable as fatigue starts to settle in.