BY CAITLIN SMITH
Daily Sports Writer
Published April 6, 2010
At this point in the season, much of the Michigan baseball season has seen the Wolverines simply going through the motions.
Yes, they have managed to compete with a moderately difficult schedule. And Michigan (2-1 Big Ten, 15-10 overall) is currently tied for first in the Big Ten after its opening weekend against Indiana.
But those good numbers have disguised a mediocre overall performance. Michigan fans have been forced to hear the same old excuse: pitching and batting weren’t working in unison. The Wolverines have had their moments — sweeping Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne and holding off a late comeback run from Eastern Michigan — but the toughest competition is yet to come.
Against Indiana this past weekend, Michigan batters knocked around the Hoosiers' pitchers to win the first two games. But when looking for the crucial, final game sweep on Sunday, the Wolverines gave up 26 sloppy runs — the most allowed by a Michigan team since a loss to Minnesota in 2001. And on top of that, an 11-run Indiana rally in the fourth inning marked the most runs tallied in one inning against the Wolverines since 1984.
After a game like that, the Wolverines are in need of a midseason spark. And hopefully junior outfielder Ryan LaMarre, who was injured in late February against Texas Tech, can provide exactly that.
In the 2009 season, LaMarre started in 53 games, leading the team with a .344 batting average, 55 runs scored and 62 RBIs. He was also second team All-Big Ten Outfielder, third team All-American to Baseball America and the NCBWA. He has the ability to give new life to a lethargic offense and provide the team with needed in-game leadership.
LaMarre has missed 18 games this season due to a broken thumb. His long-awaited return to game action came last Friday against Indiana as a pinch runner, when LaMarre stole a base and scored Michigan’s 10th run of the game. Michigan fans are hoping that he will fully return into the lineup this weekend against Purdue.
He has the talent to impact games in many ways, with his speed, defense and hitting in the top of the lineup.
While fans shouldn't expect to simply see the “Ryan LaMarre Show,” they might witness an overall boost in team performance. Since Michigan has endured more than a month’s worth of play without LaMarre, it has become a stronger team. Teammates like senior second basemen Mike Kittle and redshirt sophomore first baseman Garrett Stephens have stepped it up to fill his cleats, so to speak.
With a reliable swing and solid fielding skills, LaMarre should be able to fill in the gaps where consistency between pitching and hitting has been lagging. This will give the rest of the team the opportunity to support him on the field and improve their play as well.
Only time will tell if LaMarre can return rejuvenated after his injury. His presence is much needed but the beginning of his return might not be just another walk in the park.