BY ZAK PYZIK
Daily Sports Writer
Published April 12, 2010
After a seven-week hiatus, junior outfielder Ryan LaMarre is back in the Michigan baseball team’s lineup and hotter than ever. LaMarre pushed his hit streak, which started before his injury, to 10 games in the Wolverines’ 9-4 victory over Purdue on Sunday.
LaMarre’s reliability, along with a consistency in the infield and a strong bullpen should serve as the catalysts in Michigan’s contest against Toledo today.
"It feels unreal," LaMarre said after Sunday’s game against Purdue. "These guys, for the most part, picked me up while I was gone, but I can only watch so many games from the sidelines. It's definitely great to be back out there."
LaMarre hit a triple and two doubles on Sunday against the Boilermakers. One double came when the bases were loaded and sparked a seven-run inning for the Wolverines.
LaMarre, who was awarded the Big Ten Player of the Week yesterday, is batting .519 and is arguably the best hitter for the Wolverines.
"What a week," Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. "If he is not Player of the Week, I don't know what more you could do. It was pretty special, especially in his first week back. He hasn't seen much live pitching and to perform the way he did, get big hits, it really helped the team."
The Rockets (8-1 MAC, 21-9 overall) just recently ousted conference foe Buffalo 17-8. The win gave Toledo a three-game series sweep and extended its winning streak to eight games. The Rockets haven’t been defeated since March 31, when they lost to Ohio State 4-3.
The last time the two teams faced off was in 2008, and Michigan came out victorious, 12-4. It was then-freshman pitcher Travis Smith who pitched a one-hit scoreless inning and then-sophomore pitcher Eric Katzman who took over and threw three scoreless innings.
Junior Matt Miller, today's starter for the Wolverines, is 0-2 this season despite having only allowed two runs over six innings and striking out seven batters against St. Johns. Most recently, Miller threw a scoreless inning and struck out one batter coming out of the bullpen against Central Michigan on April 7.
Miller will have to be stable to handle the top of the Rockets' lineup to find success. Toledo boasts four batters hitting better than .350. And when Miller gets to the meat of the that lineup, he will really have his hands full. Dan Sherwood, Jaren Hoying and Tim Krofcheck come to the batters box in the sixth, seventh and eighth spots consecutively and each have home-run potential for big slams. The three have accumulated 24 home runs this season.
But if the play in the field is consistent, the burden on Miller will be significantly less.
Michigan is fielding .968 and the Wolverines are averaging just 1.24 errors a game. The biggest switch for Michigan has been moving redshirt junior Anthony Toth from shortstop to second base and chalking in freshman Derek Dennis at shortstop. Toth has played more comfortably at second and Dennis is making good decisions at short.
Both will need to be on their game to stop the Rockets' hot streak today.