Redshirt sophomore left-hander Steven Hajjar hopped out of the dugout to congratulate sophomore right-hander Cam Weston as Weston strolled off the field against Michigan State. The pair allowed just two hits between them as they dominated the Spartan hitters and led the Wolverines to 5-1 and 3-1 victories, respectively.
Hajjar has gotten much of the plaudits this season, but he put together his best outing of the season on Friday with six scoreless innings. Hajjar racked up a whopping 13 strikeouts, allowing just one hit and one walk.
“We have a lot of strong arms,” Weston said. “We just have trust in our guys to put up zeros when it matters, to have shut-down innings, getting a lot of strikeouts, things like that.”
Yet his performance was one-upped by his rotation-mate, Weston. Weston threw a complete game, allowing just one hit while striking out nine. He was dominant for large parts, including a stretch where he retired 20 consecutive batters.
“He throws hard,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “He has good stuff and he usually is a guy that gets strike one and strike two very quickly. He’s one of the best pitchers in not just the conference but the country, so we’re very glad he’s on our team.”
Weston has had several strong outings earlier this year, including a three-game stretch in which he tossed 18.2 scoreless innings in a row. Weston now has a 2.93 ERA over 61.1 innings. Hajjar has been consistent as well, sporting a 2.88 ERA and a 3-0 record over 56.1 innings.
While Michigan dropped the final game of the series to Michigan State, 10-2, the performance of its top two pitchers was very encouraging.
“Hajjar’s just been very consistent, Weston’s been pretty consistent,” Bakich said. “Using those other three guys in Jacob Denner and Ben Dragani and Blake Beers, we’ve mixed and matched after (Hajjar and Weston).”
In the NCAA tournament, the first two starters are vital. If the Wolverines can stay in the winner’s bracket in the regional round, a 2-0 start in the double elimination format would force opponents into a tough spot. In the 2019 tournament, 12 of the 16 regional champions started 2-0 — including Michigan.
“We know that Hajjar and Weston will go game one and game two,” Bakich said. “We’ll have to figure out, based on the numbers and the data and information that we have, who’s going to be the best third starter and who’s going to be best coming out of the bullpen.”
Those first two games — and the first two starters in those games — will prove vital, particularly as the Wolverines will likely face a higher-seeded team in the second round, based on current rankings and projections; Baseball America currently projects Michigan to be a two seed in the South Bend regional.
In the super regional round, the format is simpler: a head-to-head, best two-out-of-three. Again, strong performances from the top two starters would be monumental. Getting Hajjar and Weston locked in — as they were against Michigan State — and pitching to their potential during the postseason would put Michigan in great shape to pull off an upset and make another deep run in 2021.