By Zach Shaw, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 2, 2014
Forty-five games into the season, Michigan baseball is still looking to get hot.
Despite having a lineup and rotation that compares with the best of the Big Ten, and showing flashes of success each weekend, the Wolverines (9-9 Big Ten, 20-24-1 overall) have yet to put it all together and go on a winning streak of more than three games.
The only team in the conference that hasn’t swept or been swept by an opponent will look to do the former as it treks to Evanston to take on last-place Northwestern and possibly extend its winning streak to five in Michigan’s final road series.
The Wolverines’ attempt to sweep the Wildcats (4-13, 12-29) will be put to the test first on Friday when sophomore left-hander Evan Hill looks to rebound from his shaky performance last week against Nebraska. After giving up eight hits, four walks, two wild pitches and six runs in just four innings, the ace will need to find control and consistency against a Northwestern team that — despite its record — sports a .278 batting average, good for fourth in the Big Ten.
Following Hill, junior left-hander Trent Szkutnik and senior left-hander Logan McAnallen will take the mound Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Both seek continuation of their recent success, as the pair has a combined 2.19 earned-run average over their last four starts, bringing much-needed consistency to the team’s young pitching staff.
On the other side, Michigan will have the opportunity to run away with the series if it can put the ball in play. If the Wolverines can trim from their Big Ten-leading 6.38 strikeouts per game, the Northwestern defense will likely reward the effort. The Wildcats have committed a conference-leading 90 errors, and their .945 fielding percentage is 14 points below any other team. Once on base, Michigan can improve its league-best 64 stolen bases to exploit one of the conference’s weaker teams at throwing out runners.
Among those looking to do so are sophomore infielder Travis Maezes and junior outfielder Jackson Glines. The pair has combined for a .326 batting average and 30 steals, six more than Northwestern’s entire team. The remainder of the Wolverine lineup has struggled as of late, but with a team ERA of 4.89, the Wildcats present an opportunity for that all to change.
With just 13 games left in the regular season and the Big Ten Tournament a week later, Michigan is still trying to play its best baseball of the season. Now, it has an opportunity against a team that has lost four straight and has struggled in every aspect of the game.