Baseball is a long game. Nine innings; three-plus hours; three, four or even five days a week, come rain, shine, or even snow – a legitimate possibility in Ann Arbor, even in April.
The time has arrived in the Michigan baseball team’s season when its demanding schedule is starting to take a toll on the players’ bodies. It’s not uncommon for players to sit out a midweek game to rest up for a big weekend. On Wednesday against Indiana State, it was sophomore catcher Joe Donovan who was scratched in favor of redshirt sophomore catcher Harrison Salter ahead of a big weekend series at arch-rival Ohio State in Columbus.
Salter ended up making the most of the opportunity for the Wolverines. He notched a single and two RBI on a sacrifice fly and a sacrifice bunt as well as a solid performance behind the plate in No. 24 Michigan’s 6-4 victory over the Sycamores.
“I was really excited. It’s always great to come out here and get the start,” Salter said. “It’s always an honor to come out and do my part and continue our legacy here this season.”
Salter has served this sort of fill-in role all year for the Wolverines. He’s started games against California State University-Northridge, Manhattan, Western Michigan and San Jose State – the last two also coming in the middle of the week – as well as coming off the bench in games against Binghamton and Michigan State over the course of the season.
He’s hitting for a respectable .267 batting average over his nine games this season with five hits and five RBI. Wednesday was his biggest day so far this season, though. His two RBI helped build Michigan’s momentum in what ended up being a tight game to close a midweek series against the Sycamores.
“Today was just great,” Salter said, grinning. “We work a lot on situational stuff. People on the team always give me crap for being a good bunter, but it always comes in handy when you need it during games.”
Clutch hitting like Salter’s has become an increasingly important part of Michigan’s success recently. Four of their last five games have been decided by a margin of two runs or fewer. Against tough teams like Indiana State, which, like Michigan, has been in and out of the rankings over the course of the season, a hit here or there can make all the difference.
“We had our work cut out for us,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “They’re a very complete team. We knew even up six, they weren’t going to go away quietly. We were two very evenly-matched clubs. It’s whoever gets that one extra hit or makes that one extra play wins the game.”