The Michigan baseball team’s Spring Break trip did not end exactly as it would have hoped. The 19th-ranked Wolverines’ final two games against UC Davis were canceled due to the rain, leaving them with a 3-3 record in their trip to California.
Despite suffering his first losses on the season, Michigan coach Erik Bakich believes there are teaching moments in every game. Here are five things we learned from Michigan’s early-season trip out west.
1. Michigan’s starting pitchers are really good …
Sophomore left-handed pitcher Oliver Jaskie had another impressive outing for the Wolverines. Against Michigan’s chief opponent, No. 9 California, Jaskie managed to toss 5.1 innings of three-hit, no-run baseball. Bakich praised Jaskie for his work ethic and performance after his earlier start against Canisius, but his stellar start has been a pleasant surprise for the Wolverines.
Sophomore right-hander Ryan Nutof suffered his first loss of the season, but he impressed nonetheless. Nutof picked up a victory in his first start of the season by shutting out Saint Joseph’s. In his next start against UC Davis, Nutof surrendered just two earned runs, but did not get the necessary run support to erase the deficit.
Junior lefty Brett Adcock also took a loss in his start against Cal Poly. However, his stat line told another story. Adcock pitched 3.1 innings, striking out seven batters and not allowing a hit.
Overall, Michigan’s starters allowed no more than four runs in any of their games in California, and the staff is currently boasting the fifth-best earned-run average in college baseball at 1.59.
2. … But its defense isn’t.
Despite outstanding pitching and a serviceable offense, the Wolverines’ defense has already cost them games. Michigan committed errors in every one of its contests over the break.
Up 3-2 in the sixth inning against UC Davis, sophomore infielder Jake Bivens overthrew a ball to first base. Instead of two runners on with one out, Nutof had to pitch in a no-out, bases-loaded jam. A single and fielder’s choice gave the Mustangs a 4-3 lead and the eventual victory.
“We made a couple of costly errors that led to two unearned runs against UC Davis,” Bakich said. “Sometimes the growth comes from learning from your mistakes.”
A Michigan error also cost a run against San Jose State to ruin the Wolverines’ chances at their fourth shutout of the season. The Spartans continued to surge with four runs in the fifth inning to tie the game, 5-5, but a double by Bivens in the sixth inning secured a 6-5 win for the Wolverines.
3. The 7-8-9 hitters are still up in the air.
While the first six hitters in the Wolverines’ lineup have remained consistent in their 10 contests thus far, the backend of the lineup has seen a number of changes.
Junior infielder Michael Brdar has started every game thus far, but has not solidified a permanent spot in the lineup. He has seen time in all of the bottom three spots. Junior catcher Harrison Wenson — who leads the team with three homers so far this season — has also started every game, but was the seventh batter in two games in California. Wenson has typically hit in the No. 5 spot.
Besides Brdar and Wenson, Bakich has also shuffled freshman outfielder Jonathan Engelmann, freshman infielder Ako Thomas and junior outfielder Johnny Slater in and out of the lineup at the bottom three spots.
4. Michigan has yet to establish itself.
With 10 games under its belt, Michigan is yet to build an identity. Defense, offense and pitching have all had their ups and downs, but have rarely all come together at once.
The same team that swept Canisius and shut out the top-10 Golden Bears has also suffered defeats to UC Davis, Santa Clara and Cal Poly. Each game is a matter of which Michigan team decides to show up.
Though disappointed by the losses, Bakich says that he cares most about how the team has handled each loss.
“We’ve got knocked down a couple times, and we’ve got back up,” Bakich said. “I think our guys have done a good job of responding to small amounts of adversity we’ve experienced.”
5. Bold Prediction: Michigan will sweep Hawaii, averaging at least nine runs a game.
Win or lose, Michigan’s pitching has been dominant to start the season. It’s time that the offense follows suit. Les Murakami Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, should be a good stadium for the Wolverines’ offense to pick up, measuring just 325 feet to left and right field.
The Rainbow Warriors are 131st in ERA in college baseball at 4.49, and the Wolverines will be the biggest challenge that they have encountered so far.
With so much attention focused on the pitching staff, it will be Michigan’s bats that will shine against Hawaii.