Just two weeks into the season, the Michigan baseball team was ready for its busiest week on the schedule.
The 20th-ranked Wolverine baseball team headed to northern California in search of sunny weather to cap an eight-game, nine-day trip. Their final two contests were canceled due to rain, but Michigan still played six games. The Wolverines (7-3) broke even over the break, going 3-3.
After sweeping Canisius in dominating fashion the previous weekend, the team entered Spring Break undefeated. However, Michigan dropped two out of its first three in California to unranked opponents to start the trip.
Expectations for the team are higher than ever, with numerous polls placing them as favorites in the Big Ten, but a couple of early-season losses didn’t faze the Wolverines.
“Going 1-2 on that weekend was a positive,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “We wanted to see how we would respond to getting knocked down.”
Monday, sophomore left-handed pitcher Oliver Jaskie set up the next set of games by shutting down No. 10 California. Jaskie gave up just three hits in 5 and one-third innings pitched to boost the Wolverines to a 5-0 upset victory.
But beyond Jaskie, the entire pitching staff has impressed early in the season. Bakich emphasized that every pitcher who has stepped in has done well so far, not just the marquee returners such as junior Brett Adcock and senior captain Evan Hill.
Thirteen Michigan hurlers have seen action thus far, and they have combined to allow just 17 earned runs in 10 games.
“Us as a staff have been really locked in on making good pitches when it counts,” said sophomore right-hander Ryan Nutof. “I think that’s been a key for the whole staff.”
Though the pitching has been solid, it was the lively bats in the lineup that carried the Wolverines to their next victory, as eight players notched hits in a 6-5 win against San Jose State. A joint effort from four Michigan relief pitchers, who didn’t allow a run past the fifth inning, halted a comeback effort by the Spartans.
Against UC Davis on Thursday, Nutof (2-1) took the mound hoping to win his third consecutive start. But Michigan committed two errors, which cost the Wolverines the lead and eventually the ballgame, losing, 4-3.
The chance for revenge against UC Davis never came, as rainouts spoiled the games on Friday and Saturday. But a loss to end the week didn’t discourage Bakich and his team.
“Even though we had a few losses, I still feel like we’re getting better, because we had some teachable moments in those games,” Bakich said.
Bakich says that overall there were many positives to come out of the trip, both on and off the field. The rainouts and a built-in off day allowed extra time for team bonding.
The Wolverines spent the off day in San Francisco, where they took a boat across the bay to tour Alcatraz. At night, they watched the NBA’s Golden State Warriors pull out an overtime win against the Atlanta Hawks.
Despite the three losses, the team gained a lot of experience together on the road during the week, which will be key to its success throughout the season.