The Michigan men’s baseball team is not superstitious — or at least hasn’t alluded to any reservations when talking about its recent success. But if the Wolverines win the next contest against Saint Joseph’s on Friday, they’ll be matching their best-ever start to a season since 2009 with a 5-0 win streak.
But the team is trying not to dwell on its hot start.
“We’ve looked ahead without making it something our players will be focused on,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “There’s no further than our next opponent, and no further than today’s training session. We’re certainly excited about going out to California with the team, but we’re not going to California today, we’re not going to California tomorrow — we’re going to California on Thursday, and our first game isn’t until Friday.”
Still, the excitement surrounding the team is electric after its four-game season opener against Canisius — especially after sophomore left-hander Oliver Jaskie pitched six innings and allowed just three hits. He was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for his performance.
Other highlights of the first sweep included the first home run of the season by designated hitter Harrison Wenson and a finish by Carmen Benedetti with two strikeouts and a flyout.
“It feels good,” said senior left-hander Evan Hill. “It always feels good to win. We’re just taking the momentum into practice today, and then the next day of practice. We’re going to keep going forward and take the momentum into the weekend and continue to win.”
Michigan outscored the Griffins, 27-5, and allowed only one earned run for the entire weekend.
The last time the Wolverines opened this well, in 2009, they finished 9-15 in the Big Ten and 30-25 overall — which would be a disappointment for this seasons’ team considering last year’s group went 14-10 Big Ten, 39-25 overall, and finished with a Big Ten Tournament title.
Bakich points to the chemistry of the team as the reason for the early success.
“They genuinely care about each other and want each other to do well,” Bakich said. “The team chemistry on this team is extremely high, and when you have that, you feel fortunate because you’re blessed to be around a group of guys who genuinely want to do well and genuinely care for one another and care about where the team is going. It’s fun to watch from a coaching standpoint.”
The time gap between the 2016 team and the 2009 team is minor compared to the time between 2009 and 18 years ago when Michigan started 6-0 in 1991 under Bill Freehan.
Despite the impressive statistics, though, Bakich is itching for some adversity.
“From a coaching standpoint, you’re always interested to see how the team responds when you get that punch in the mouth or that kick to the stomach,” Bakich said. “We had played with a lead for the entire weekend, and things went well for us because we were playing really well. and that was exciting. We’re going to want to replicate that as often as possible. I think with the high-character group of kids that we have that we’re excited to see how they respond to some adversity.
“You know the garbage is going to hit the fan at some point in this season. So whether it’s this weekend or a month from now, I’m just excited to see how (the team) bonds when things aren’t always going our way.”
But for now, superstitions aside, it’s safe to say that Michigan is off to what might be a historic season.