After sweeping Purdue over the weekend, the No. 16 Michigan baseball team will take on Eastern Michigan in its final midweek matchup of the season.
The last time the two teams faced each other in early April, the result wasn’t exactly what the Wolverines had hoped for. After the game was forced into 13 innings, Michigan (39-12 overall, 14-7 Big Ten) narrowly escaped with a 2-1 victory.
Neither team was able to get their offense going, something the Wolverines struggled with during last week’s midweek games against Central Michigan as well. However, they were back to their offensive prowess over the weekend against the Boilermakers, outscoring them 16-5.
Senior centerfielder Johnny Slater had another impressive weekend, batting .384 on the series, picking up four runs batted-in and notching four hits in Saturday’s game alone. With sophomore second baseman Ako Thomas’s injury, Slater now leads the team with a .315 batting average and has seven triples on the season.
Slater wasn’t the only one with an laudable weekend though, as the Eagles (21-31 overall, 12-9 Mid-American) swept Northern Illinois over the weekend and outscored them 30-6. A big contributor to that was Eastern Michigan’s outfielder Jordan Peterson.
Michigan will need to watch out for Peterson, who currently bats .300 and has a .465 slugging percentage. But more recently he was named the Mid-American Conference Player of the Week after going 4-for-6 with three home runs and nine runs batted-in against the Huskies just in Sunday’s game.
But if there’s a team that can handle the Eagles’ offensive hot streak, it’s Michigan. The Wolverines’ .984 fielding percentage makes them the best defense in the nation — largely because of the strong work on the mound.
The Wolverines’ junior right-hander Jayce Vancena will be looking to get back to his winning ways after a good showing against the Chippewas on Wednesday. While the Wolverines lost the game, it was more due to offensive struggles than the pitching staff. Vancena boasts a 2.43 earned-run average, and prior to Wednesday where he walked three batters, he had not surrendered a base-on-balls all season. It is expected that he will continue his style of pitching to induce weak contact and allow his defense to work behind him.
Vancena was also on the bump the last time the Eagles came to Ray Fisher Stadium — allowing just three hits, no runs and recording six strikeouts on the day.
With just four games left until the Big Ten Tournament, including a three-game home-and-away series against rival Michigan State, some may worry that the Wolverines are looking ahead, but Michigan coach Erik Bakich assured they are far from it.
“We didn’t even mention the post-season, we didn’t mention the Big Ten Tournament, we’re not talking about regionals right now,” Bakich said. “We’re turning (our focus) to Eastern Michigan. Even though it sounds very cliché, these guys just get up everyday to fight for each other that next day.”