The academic year is winding down, but baseball season is just hitting its swing. Not even the thought of graduation is deterring the seniors of the Michigan baseball team from keeping their eyes on championship season.
“The seniors don’t look at it (as though its the end),” said junior catcher Harrison Wenson. “Like (coach Erik Bakich) says, we’re taking it one day at a time. We’re all just trying to play our best. The seniors are just trying to do that and bring it for us.
“This is Michigan, and (the seniors) know it’s an honor to play here.”
The 18th-ranked Wolverines (6-2 Big Ten, 26-9 overall) will travel to Iowa City this weekend to face Iowa (6-6, 17-17) for a three-game weekend series.
The major obstacle facing Michigan, apart from Iowa, is that the weekend series comes smack dab in the middle of finals.
But that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
“We talk a lot about being present,” Bakich said. “When they’re in school, they’re in school. It’s a present mentality that has so much more to do with life than it does with just baseball. Like, what’s the most important interview I’m giving? This one. Why? Because it’s happening right now. That’s the philosophy we employ.
“When they’re in school, they have to be the best student. When they’re here, we want them to be the best baseball player they can be.”
The last time the Wolverines and Hawkeyes met was last season, when Michigan lost, 2-0, as Iowa allowed just four hits.
Now on a five-game winning streak, the Wolverines broke into many top-25 polls, and were ranked as high as No. 18.
The impressive standings are a result of the team’s best start since 1987. That season, Michigan won the regular season, became Big Ten Tournament champions and advanced to NCAA Regionals.
Michigan holds an 11-2 record at home this season, and just 10-6 away from Ray Fisher Stadium — but that doesn’t worry the team.
“We’re on the road warriors,” Wenson said. “We started off the season with seven weeks in a row on the road. We take it one day at a time, and we’re not too worried about whether we’re on the road or at home. We’re just trying to bring it every day as best as we can.”
The Wolverines have some key offensive threats that the Hawkeyes will have to use their eagle-eyes to scout. Wenson, senior Cody Bruder and juniors Brett Adcock and Carmen Benedetti are all either leading the team or ranked in the Big Ten offensive categories.
Bruder is a centerfielder who leads Michigan’s offense with a .386 batting average and an impressive 31 runs batted-in. His RBI count is second to Wenson’s 36. The slugger is leading the team with five home runs.
When Michigan returns, victorious or not, it will face four full days of no games. The break isn’t daunting as much as it is a chance for the players to tighten up on their skills.
“Our practice is regimented well with what we need to do,” said sophomore right-hander Jayce Vancena. “We’re going to be ready no matter what.”
And if fans haven’t caught up with this yet, Bakich expects that the best is always about to happen. So Bakich and his team are facing this weekend the same as they face every day: believing in that positive outcome.