After losing a home series to Rutgers and falling to third place in the Big Ten standings, the Michigan baseball team looked to its upcoming series in Evanston as a chance to bounce back from adversity. Besides facing two quality opponents in Northwestern and Illinois, Michigan coach Erik Bakich knew that the logistics of the weekend would pose other challenges.
“Obviously it’s a huge challenge, going into the pod weekend where you have a lot of weird uncontrollables,” Bakich said.
Those uncontrollables struck on Friday morning, when it was announced that COVID-19 issues within the Wildcats’ program would force Northwestern to withdraw from the series. The Wolverines will still travel to Evanston, but will now play all four games against the Fighting Illini. The two teams will play doubleheaders on May 1 and May 2, with the first games beginning at 12:30 EST and the seconds beginning approximately 40 minutes after the conclusion of the firsts.
Michigan holds a 1-1 record against Illinois going into the weekend. The Fighting Illini are a group of strong contact hitters — leading the conference in average at .287 but posting middling numbers in other power categories — but have one of the worst pitching staffs in the Big Ten (6.49 ERA).