After the Michigan baseball team started the season 4-0, Michigan coach Erik Bakich wondered how the 19th-ranked Wolverines (7-3) would respond to inevitable adversity.
Bakich got his answer during Michigan’s Spring Break trip. After the Wolverines defeated St. Joseph’s, 5-1, on Feb. 26, they faltered in their next two contests, losing to Cal Poly, 5-1, and Santa Clara, 5-3.
Michigan left nine men on base in each of its defeats.
“In each of our setbacks this Spring Break trip, you could point at something that contributed to the loss,” Bakich said. “We gave away too many bases against Cal Poly, and we didn’t execute with runners in scoring position against Santa Clara. Sometimes the growth comes from learning from your mistakes.”
But in the marquee matchup of the week — against then-No.10 California — the Wolverines responded strongly. Buoyed by sophomore left-hander Oliver Jaskie’s 5.1 scoreless innings, Michigan scored three runs in the third inning, en route to its 5-0 victory.
“Seeing them get knocked down and pick themselves up after that, there was definitely some lessons learned there,” Bakich said. “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 small amounts of adversity we’ve experienced.”
Relief pitching was another bright spot for the Wolverines against the Golden Bears. Freshman left-hander William Tribucher, junior right-hander Mac Lozer and junior left-hander Carmen Benedetti combined to pitch 3.2 scoreless frames, surrender two hits and strike out five batters.
“We’ve had a lot of time to bond and really collaborate together and create a mindset as a staff,” said sophomore right-hander Ryan Nutof. “We played very athletic teams with a lot of speed (in California).”
Michigan carried its newfound confidence into its contest with San Jose State. With the score tied at five in the top of the sixth, sophomore shortstop Jake Bivens came up with a double to drive in a run and give the Wolverines their final 6-5 edge.
But then more problems arose as Michigan dropped its series opener against UC Davis, 4-3. A failed pick-off attempt by the Wolverines in the bottom of the fourth and a fielding error in the sixth both proved costly, as they each resulted in one unearned run for the Aggies.
“All the teams were extremely competitive in California,” Bakich said. “We competed well against Cal, San Jose State and UC Davis. I thought the effort was good (in those games).”
Before the Wolverines once again had the chance to bounce back from a loss, Mother Nature threw a wrench into things. Heavy rain cancelled their next two games against UC Davis, forcing Michigan to wait until March 10 for the chance at a fresh start at Hawaii.
“It’s disappointing to not play,” Nutof said. “This team is always hungry to play and always wants to compete.”
The Wolverines passed their adversity test against the Golden Bears, but that’s just one game in a long season. When Michigan travels to Honolulu, Bakich will have a clearer picture of what kind of team he has.