With the bruises of last weekend’s weekend series with No. 19 Texas Tech behind it, the Michigan baseball team knows that it wasn’t good enough.
“We got exposed,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “We couldn’t hold (Texas Tech) down in the bullpen. They sped the game up on us defensively, they ran out one mid-to-upper 90s pitcher after the next and we weren’t able to handle it as well as we would have liked to.”
The setback comes after a first third of the season where the Wolverines put on a show, winning 15 of 19 games with all components of the team clicking except for a week in California, where Michigan’s offense struggled. That problem seemed to fix itself in the first homestand of the season, when it crushed opponents Manhattan and Western Michigan. The solution, though, was temporary.
“We just couldn’t string (clutch) at-bats together against Texas Tech when we had our scoring opportunities,” Bakich said. “We probably had the best chance to win a game in game three against Texas Tech. We had the bases loaded twice and just couldn’t get that big hit. Against a good team, that’s what you need. You need those two-out RBIs.”
The sine curve of the offense wasn’t the only struggle against the Red Raiders — even Michigan’s strengths seemed to wilt. The Wolverines’ defense committed eight errors, costing them nine runs. Its pitching walked 19 batters, 13 of which came from a leaky bullpen.
“They took advantage of our mistakes and they did what we’ve done to a lot of the teams that we’ve played and opened up a large margin in the scoring,” Bakich said. “When they walked us or made errors against us it usually turned into a big inning, and that’s what Texas Tech did against us.”
Now it’s time for Michigan to learn. The Big Ten season is around the corner, and with it comes the opportunity to play consistently good teams — those that will make the Wolverines pay when they make mistakes, in the same way the Red Raiders did.
“The validation of having been in coaching and being in college baseball for a long time, having validation that we’re on the right track,” Bakich said. “(Texas Tech is) ahead of us right now but we’re getting there and seeing how close we were through the early and middle part of the game, and seeing exactly what we can point to with some costly mistakes.”
It was an important weekend for Michigan. A team that has been high on itself was grounded. It can hit the reset button with this gut check. The Wolverines saw what they thought they were and saw they had a long way to go.
The timing of the measuring stick, though, is key for Michigan. It’s March instead of June, and the Wolverines have time to learn and reach their potential.
“I haven’t lost a single ounce of confidence in our team,” Bakich said. “And what type of team that we’re going to have this year as the season continues.”