It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and a young Colt Bakich was as excited as any human being could possibly be.
Michigan coach Erik Bakich’s enthusiastic son traveled with his dad’s baseball team to West Lafayette, Ind. where his favorite squad in the world was taking on Purdue for the second seed in the Big Ten. Frantically running around the wooden dugout in his prized rubber cleats — a lethal combination — the younger Bakich took a hard fall.
The first thing to hit the ground was his left cheek, the next were his tears.
Ever the strong father, Bakich picked up his little man and sat him down on the bench.
“He was crying and I said, ‘Hey man, there’s no blood, nothing’s broken, you’re gonna be fine. Go play,’” Bakich said.
Bakich used this episode, a seemingly banal moment in the life of a child, and turned it into a learning moment for the team. The coach drew comparisons between his son’s fall and recovery and his team’s current predicament.
A seemingly obvious comparison? Perhaps, but the Michigan baseball team needed to hear it.
The team is heading into the Big Ten Tournament battered and bruised, having just been swept by the Boilermakers — a team they’re likely to face again in the double-elimination tournament.
“We face planted at Purdue,” Bakich said. “We just need to pick ourselves up — there’s no blood, nothing’s broken. We just gotta pick ourselves up and go play. It’s really that simple.”
Bakich hit the nail right on the head. The Wolverines need motivation, pure and simple. Before getting swept by the Boilermakers, Michigan was viewed as a lock for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Now, with a subprime RPI and an inexperienced roster, the Wolverines need to win the Big Ten Tournament or at least make a deep run to secure their spot in a regional matchup.
That being said, Bakich knows what it takes to emerge victorious from the rigors of the Big Ten Tournament after winning it with Michigan in 2015.
“The way we won it in 2015 was we said, ‘We are going to treat each game like it’s the only game we’re playing all week,’” Baich said, “‘And we’re just gonna do whatever we have to do and pitch whoever we have to pitch just to take care of that game, and we’ll worry about the next game when the next game comes.’”
For the Wolverines to win, they need to abandon the complacency that saw a regular season title slip through their fingers. They need to treat every game like it’s their last. They need to string quality at-bats together. They need to not be afraid to put in starting pitchers in relief.
They have to be perfect.
With a season on the line and a chance to immortalize the team in the record books, Michigan has to shrug off its inexperience and get hot, fast. Good thing for the Wolverines they have shown they can do just that.
“If we’ve shown anything this season it’s we can get hot,” Bakich said. “We don’t need 20, we just need to get to four.”
It all starts against Iowa early Wednesday morning — a team Michigan dropped a series to a few weeks prior. But this time, the Wolverines are fighting for their lives and are making one thing perfectly clear.
“We’re gonna do whatever it takes.”