The Wolverines’ spring break trip to the Golden State has not been quite as relaxing as they hoped.
The team’s winning three-game series against California State University-Northridge was punctuated by a 5-2 loss Sunday afternoon. On Tuesday afternoon, they lost again to Long Beach State, 8-7. A planned matchup against UC-Irvine on Wednesday evening was cancelled due to rain.
In advance of Tuesday’s game, Michigan coach Erik Bakich had highlighted his team’s occasional deficit in offensive productivity as well as the strong pitching it was facing in California.
“We’re facing good pitching,” Bakich said. “The West Coast teams always pitch tough –– we just have to be very selective and really hunt pitches that we can drive and pitches we can hit hard.”
Tuesday’s loss to Long Beach state certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort. The Wolverines initially fell behind, 7-1, after a six-run third inning from Long Beach State. In the sixth inning, however, three runs from Michigan –– including a two-run homer from redshirt senior Miles Lewis –– brought it toward comeback territory.
After another Long Beach run in the bottom of the sixth and a counter from Ako Thomas in the seventh, Michigan entered the ninth inning down 8-5 and motivated to close the gap.
Another two-run homer, this time from senior Jimmy Kerr, narrowed the margin further, and the game seemed poised for a dramatic finish. But the Wolverines’ remaining two outs followed in relatively quick succession, and the game ended on a pop-up from sophomore Joe Donovan.
After Michigan’s second loss in a row, the offensive improvements laid out by Bakich on Sunday still have yet to be fully realized.
“We’re looking to improve offensively in general and just string more quality at bats together,” Bakich said. “It ultimately goes back to pitch selection. … When guys are doing a great job of being selective and getting on base, I swear that the hits are contagious, the quality of at bats is contagious, and so is the quality of contact.”
Michigan will certainly hope to catch some of that scoring contagion as it faces significant talent in the Dodger Stadium Classic this weekend, in particular No. 2-ranked UCLA on Friday. The Wolverines will face also Southern California on Saturday and Oklahoma State on Sunday.
“I know there will be some marquee matchups inside the rankings,” Bakich said. “And I know people have the Dodger Stadium Classic circled because it’s a bunch of good teams playing each other.”
UCLA will offer Michigan perhaps its toughest pitching matchup yet, having allowed no earned runs in over half of their games. Time will tell if the Wolverines can stage an effective response after its experiences this week.