In Tuesday’s game against Eastern Michigan, fifth-year senior catcher Dominic Jamett crushed a pitch off the top of the 26-foot “Brick Monster” in left field at Ray Fisher Stadium. Jamett hit the ball so hard that it bounced sharply back to the left fielder, holding him up at first base.
He had three more hits in the game — a double and two singles — in addition to his long single to left field. Every time Jamett made contact, the ball seemed to carry towards the warning track in the blink of an eye.
With his stellar performance Tuesday, along with a hit in Wednesday’s game, Jamett raised his batting average to .400 for the season, and helped his team to two straight victories against the Eagles.
“He’s been here for five years. He’s a senior, and he’s a captain,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “Playing time hasn’t come often and hasn’t come easy for him. He’s a kid who, five years ago, was cut from this team.”
Last year, he had just 15 at-bats, and did not see any time during Michigan’s run to the Big Ten Tournament title in May. He was one of the team captains and a National Strength and Conditioning Association All-American, but couldn’t fight his way into the starting lineup.
But with the graduation of Kendall Patrick, last year’s starting catcher, a player was primed to take on his role. But it still wasn’t Jamett.
Junior catcher Harrison Wenson was given the nod to start behind the plate and has taken advantage of this opportunity, belting a team-leading five home runs and 44 RBI so far this season. Wenson has shown prowess both at the plate and behind it — through 42 games, just 17 runners have attempted to steal against the Wolverines, and Wenson has thrown out 10 of them.
A determined Jamett, though, refused to accept his fate as a backup catcher in his final year. When junior right fielder Johnny Slater went down with an injury, it left the door open for someone to grab a starting spot.
Freshman left fielder Jonathan Engelmann was Bakich’s first choice, but Engelmann’s .230 batting average in 14 games as a starter was not enough to sway his coach to lock him into the lineup.
Junior second basemen Hector Gutierrez has also slid into the lineup at times, but has struggled with strikeouts — he had three Tuesday against the Eagles, which lowered his average to .179 on the season.
Eventually, Jamett was given a spot in the late innings against Michigan State on April 12 and singled in two runs. The following day, Bakich placed Jamett’s name in the batting order as the designated hitter against Eastern Michigan.
Much like was the case on Tuesday, Jamett was the catalyst for Michigan's romping of Eastern Michigan. In his second at-bat of the day, Jamett kept hte offense pumping with a bases-clearing, three-run double down the left field line.
In the past two weeks, Bakich has let Jamett go to work, penciling him in the starting lineup for seven straight games. Jammett is 12-for-27, with five RBIs and one home run in that span.
“He’s taking advantage of the opportunity that has presented itself for him, and he knows the importance of that opportunity,” Bakich said. “It’s exciting to see.”
Still, Jamett knows that his spot in the lineup is not secure and that things can change in an instant.
“You never know with the game of baseball, it can humble you real quick,” Jamett said. “But I don’t write the lineup, so that’s not something I’m concerned with.”
Though he has earned a starting spot, he will continue to work as hard as he did without one. He says he'll be back in the weight room, working to turn that long single into a home run.
But for the first time in his career, the team captain finally has the opportunity to show his leadership outside of the weight room and other off field activities. Instead, he'll look to lead by example — as a starter.