BY BEN ESTES
Daily Sports Writer
Published March 18, 2010
The Michigan baseball team doesn’t know a lot about Fordham, its opponent for a three-game set this weekend.
But the Wolverines know enough to expect a three-game sweep of the Rams.
It will be the first meeting between the two programs, one Michigan (6-9) hopes will provide an opportunity to turn things around after recent struggles. The Rams come into the series — which is being played at the New York Mets’ spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla. —with a 4-11 record. Fordham isn't faring much better statistically, either, hitting just .235 as a team, compared to Michigan's .288.
The Wolverines, who are yet to post a winning weekend in the young 2010 season, are desperate for a turnaround.
“It’s games that we have to have,” redshirt junior second baseman Anthony Toth said. “We’ve been losing some games that we definitely should’ve had … and Fordham’s a three-game series that we need to sweep and that’s what we expect out of ourself.”
The team will need a more complete performance if that goal is to be fulfilled. While Michigan's defense has been solid nearly the entire year, with a .979 fielding average, neither the pitching nor offense has delivered consistently.
“It’s one game we pitch well, one game we don’t hit,” said Michigan coach Rich Maloney. “The next game we hit, we don’t pitch … but if we can get those two together, we’re gonna be an awfully good team. It’s not the opponent that we’re playing, it’s really we’re playing ourselves … if we play our game, we have a chance to win.”
On the mound, senior right-hander Alan Oaks (1-3, 2.73) will take the hill for the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Rams, looking to build off of his performance last time out against No. 8 Coastal Carolina. Oaks went 6.1 innings against the Chanticleers, allowing just two runs and tying a career-high with seven strikeouts.
Oaks and the rest of the team will need to bring their best game in order to find success this weekend.
“We gotta sweep this series,” Berset said. “It’s kind of needed right now with our record what it is. We’re gonna go down there and that’s what we’re gonna try and do … we’re definitely not overlooking them.”
Following the doubleheader on Saturday, Michigan will take on the Mets in an exhibition game for the third year in a row. Mets owner Fred Wilpon is a Michigan alum and donated the money to help renovate the Wolverines’ baseball and softball stadiums, building what became the Wilpon Complex.
While last season was an 18-7 Mets blowout victory, in 2008, the teams battled to a 4-4 tie. The result frustrated Mets reliever Billy Wagner so much that he claimed he was going to start beaning hitters after former Wolverine Kevin Cislo tried to lay down a bunt with a game on the line (Wagner was upset that Michigan was trying so hard to extend what he saw as a meaningless game).
Senior catcher and captain Chris Berset, who wasn’t able to participate last year, is one of the Wolverines who is especially excited to play the big league team, ready to hopefully stay competitive.
“That’s always one of the highlights,” Berset said. “We always circle that on the calendar. We’re playing for the win. Anytime we go out there and play a game, we’re trying to get that ‘W.’ We’re definitely going out there for a win.”