Every baseball fan knows what the Mendoza line is. It's the threshold for which all hitters pray to remain above — a .200 batting average. Anytime a ballplayer’s average begins to dip near, if not below, the dreaded mark, fans and coaches begin to question the player’s hitting abilities.
When an entire team’s batting average is below the Mendoza line, there should be cause for concern. That is exactly what happened to the Michigan baseball team this past weekend on its trip to San Diego, when it hit for a meager .180 average over a four-game stretch.
Fresh off a 2-1 series victory over Army in Florida, the Wolverines spent this past weekend playing in the Tony Gwynn Legacy in San Diego, CA against San Diego on Friday, Arizona on Saturday and Cal Poly on Sunday. They would go on to lose 5-1, 9-5 and 8-1, respectively, before facing San Diego State on Monday in a close 4-3 loss that was separate from the tournament.
Junior infielder Ako Thomas was Michigan’s only consistent hitter over the weekend, posting a .333 average and .444 on-base percentage. Against Cal Poly, Thomas was the only Wolverine to record a hit during the team’s defeat as the team posted an abysmal .071 average. Redshirt freshman catcher Marcus Chavez was the only other Michigan hitter who played in all 4 games to bat for over .200 over the weekend, finishing with a .250 average.
The offense was not even close to being the Wolverines’ only struggle during their San Diego trip. The pitching staff allowed twenty-four earned runs over the thirty-three defensive innings they played, leading to an astronomical 7.27 team ERA for the weekend.
In addition to being Michigan’s worst offensive performance of the young season, the Cal Poly loss was also the starting pitching staff’s worst outing thus far. Sophomore pitcher Karl Kauffman allowed seven runs on nine hits in just four innings of work. Relievers junior Troy Miller and redshirt sophomore Benjamin Keizer did well to allow only one run in four combined innings of work, but the damage had already been done.
Senior right-handed pitcher Alec Rennard, who pitched Michigan’s first game of the weekend against San Diego, was the sole bright spot for the Wolverine’s starting pitching staff.
Rennard pitched six innings, allowing just two runs and five hits. Unlike the Cal Poly game, however, after Rennard came out, the bullpen struggled as relievers sophomore Jack Weisenburger and freshman Jeff Criswell gave up three runs in only two combined innings of work. The offense, sticking with the theme of the weekend, was no help to Michigan’s pitchers as they were responsible for only three hits, two walks, and one run throughout the game.
In addition to poor offense and pitching, the Wolverine’s defense, a staple of the team last year, continued its surprising trend of committing errors. Through seven games this season, Michigan has thirteen errors, and at least one error in every game, as opposed to last season when the team had just 37 errors in 59 games.
After three straight losses in which the Wolverines showed little promise, coach Erik Bakich finally allowed the team’s early season struggles to get the best of him as he was ejected in the second inning of the team’s final game of the weekend against San Diego State.
Things will not get easier for Bakich or the Wolverines who, struggling to find hits and runs as it is, take on No. 8 Stanford (7-0) this coming weekend, which holds the eighteenth-best team ERA in Division I at 2.13.