That is the only word fit to describe the Michigan baseball team’s performance (3-0 Big Ten, 15-11 overall) on Saturday over Delaware (2-1 Colonial, 13-11 overall). From pitching to defense to offense, the Wolverines delivered one of their most complete performances of the season en route to a 11-0 smackdown of the Blue Hens and their 11th straight win.
The story of the game was the offensive onslaught brought on by consistent and fiery Michigan bats. Every batter in the starting lineup got on base and all but two batters secured a hit in the contest.
Starting things off in a big way, the Wolverines collected three runs in the first inning. Junior center fielder Jonathan Engelmann began the scoring with an RBI single to shallow left field.
Michigan then added one more run in the second thanks to the unorthodox baserunning of freshman left fielder Jordan Nwogu.
Nwogu was walked to begin the inning. He then took off in an attempt to steal second when a throwing error by the catcher sent the ball rolling into the outfield. Thinking he would just stop at third, Nwogu was caught off guard by the signal to bring it home. He awkwardly collected himself while rounding the base, then scored the run.
Then, up 4-0 through the first two innings, the Wolverines were placed in a rather unfamiliar situation — continue to be aggressive and run up the score or pump the brakes, play safe and protect the lead.
Michigan chose the former and had its biggest inning of the game in the third, plating four runs. The inning saw seven different Wolverines get on base off five hits.
“We could’ve sat back on a four-run lead after two innings, but we had our biggest inning in the third and another one in the seventh,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “The look of it was that guys were just competing in the box and having quality at-bats, and that’s what you want to see.”
The offensive prowess marked a departure from the previous day’s game, which saw only four Michigan hits and weak contact with the ball.
Also shining for the Wolverines was freshman left-hander Ben Dragani. The talented first-year tossed 6.1 scoreless innings with five strikeouts in just his third start of the season. Four of Dragani’s five strikeouts were executed without the batter swinging the bat, demonstrating the ferocity of the lefty’s changeup and other off-speed pitches.
Behind the day’s solid pitching efforts laid an active defense that made sure Delaware never changed the zero on the scoreboard under the runs column.
In one of the more impressive plays of the day, freshman shortstop Jack Blomgren fielded a ball in the first inning for the second out. The batter knocked a ball to the left infield. It bounced once where Blomgren caught it in stride with his bare hand and launched it to first base.
What makes Michigan’s defensive performance even more miraculous was that most of the plays were made in the face of pouring rain. However, adverse weather conditions are nothing new for this squad.
“Eh, it’s Michigan,” Bakich said. “This is Michigan baseball. We train in it, we prepare for it, so we can compete and be good in it when it comes time to play the game. This is nothing. For us, this is an ideal day in the winter to train in, so if there’s not snow on the ground, and even if there is snow on the ground, we’re out here.”
While other, southern schools may struggle in the elements, the Wolverines welcome them with open arms. Their rule all year is that if the thermometer reads over zero degrees, then the team will be outside and training.
The rule began when Bakich received an email from his first grade son’s school telling him to pack winter clothes. If the temperature is over zero degrees, the kids will be playing outside.
“So I read (the email) to the team and I said, ‘if it’s good enough for Ann Arbor public school first graders, then it’s good enough for us,’” Bakich said.
Regardless of conditions, over the past eleven games this Michigan team has proved it can flat-out play, and in some cases it has shown it can be what every team strives to be — dominant.