After a disappointing weekend, Michigan’s anticipation is running high to reestablish itself near the top of the Big Ten pecking order.
The Wolverines (3-2 Big Ten, 21-8 overall) — who dropped out of the national rankings after this weekend’s two-loss performance against Minnesota — will head into a pair of midweek games against Michigan State and Eastern Michigan hoping to end their losing streak.
“We’ve played at a high level consistently,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich last week. “You’re not always gonna have your ‘A’ game, you’re not always going to be 100 percent, so I think our guys have done a good job of responding to the adversity we’ve experienced.”
The weekend series against the Golden Gophers (4-1, 18-10) fell short of expectations as the Wolverines were fraught with unexpected adversity — Minnesota won both games in Friday’s doubleheader — and unexpected weather. Michigan’s last chance at redemption in the third game of the series was cancelled due to cold temperatures, and it won’t get another chance again this season against the Golden Gophers.
The Wolverines’ first contest this week will be against the Spartans on Tuesday, but will count as a non-conference matchup. Michigan has had three games cancelled so far this season, and the rivalry game was scheduled just five days ago. The two teams will have a chance to compete again the last weekend in April in conference play.
The last time the teams met was last season at Comerica Park in Detroit, where the Spartans took home a 4-2 win. Though Michigan leads in the all-time series, Michigan State has gone 8-6 against the Wolverines under current head coach Jake Boss Jr. since 2008.
Boss’s team will host Michigan at McLane Baseball Stadium in East Lansing. The Spartans are currently ranked second in the conference in batting average (.311) and first in team pitching with an earned-run average of 2.36.
The key Spartan that Michigan will have to watch for is junior first baseman Jordan Zimmerman, who ranks in the top 10 in the conference in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs, hits, total bases and doubles. Most notably, he’s ranked first in batting average (.437) and second with on-base percentage (.521).
Despite the less-than-stellar hitting performance the Wolverines had against Minnesota, Michigan’s average of 9.9 hits per game is comparable to the Spartans 10.7 hits per game.
The second matchup of the week will be back at Ray Fisher Stadium against the Eagles, who boast a win against Michigan State from last Tuesday.
Left-hander Tyler Butzin is currently leading the Eagles with a 2.11 ERA. The freshman hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last four starts through 28 innings.
But neither Tuesday’s nor Wednesday’s battles will irk the Wolverines steadfast motto: getting better each day.
“We just talk about getting better,” Bakich said. “We talk about today. Today’s our opportunity. Everything in the future will take care of themselves and will only happen as a byproduct of attacking each day. That’s what we’re going to do.”