The No. 24 Michigan baseball team’s bread and butter is its strength on the mound. Sophomore left-hander Steven Hajjar threw a season-high 11 strikeouts last week against Penn State, and sophomore right-hander Cameron Weston nearly matched Hajjar with eight Ks of his own. The Wolverines currently rank second in the Big Ten in lowest ERA.
“We’ve got guys on the bench that would be starting on most teams,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “So to not only have the depth on the lineup but depth on the bench, you see guys capable of coming through on any given day.”
Bakich’s confidence in his pitching staff has paid off so far. Hajjar’s recent pitching clinic elevated him to sixth in the Big Ten ERA rankings with Weston and sophomore left-hander Jacob Denner not far behind him, ranked 10th and 23rd, respectively.
Through 15 games and 131 innings played so far, batters facing Wolverine pitchers have just a .233 batting average and have only managed four home runs, tied for the best in the Big Ten alongside Indiana, which is currently ranked first in lowest ERA.
Consistency is also key for Michigan, especially considering how Weston and Hajjar have each pitched several eight-inning starts while still managing to keep their pitch counts below 100.
Michigan’s depth goes beyond the numbers — it’s also about leadership. Even with the bases loaded and no outs against Purdue, Hajjar found a way to retire three straight batters without giving up a single run. And after an embarrassing loss to Illinois in the Wolverines’ home opener, Weston didn’t allow a single run for the first four innings the next day.
Hajjar and Weston, in addition to Denner and senior right-hander Blake Beers, provide Michigan with the confidence it needs to find its offensive spark at any time, be it an eight-run comeback in the bottom of the ninth against MSU or a 17-4 rout of Penn State.
“When they’re up there showing, we have total confidence as a defense,” sophomore infielder/outfielder Clark Elliott said after the win over Illinois. “Seeing them have confidence just bleeds through the rest of the team.”
It’s clear that the Wolverines’ success this season starts and ends with their performance on the mound and, if the starters continue their pace for the remainder of the season, Michigan will be able to contend for the Big Ten title in June.
“The thing we’ve got consistency in is a lot of teammates who care more about the team’s success than their individual stats,” Bakich said after the Purdue series. “That consistency is what’s going to be the reason that we’ve had success this far and the number one reason why we will continue to have success in the future.”