Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich has stressed how important consistency is for a game as volatile as baseball.
In its three-game series against No. 19 Oklahoma State (13-7), Bakich’s team was consistent, but for all of the wrong reasons. Despite picking up a win in Sunday’s game to avoid getting swept, the 23rd-ranked Wolverines (12-5) struck out 34 times over the weekend.
It was Michigan’s pitching that once again anchored the team in its victory and kept the previous two games within reach. Wolverine pitchers allowed a total of 11 hits while letting up just 13 runs between the three contests, typically a stat line conducive to winning.
But as was true in its earlier season losses, Michigan’s lineup struggled to even make contact at the plate versus Oklahoma State. The 7-8-9 hitters had an especially rough weekend, as they contributed 15 of the 34 strikeouts.
The problem was not entirely with the bottom end of the lineup, though. In Saturday’s matchup, Cowboy pitchers fanned 17 batters, and every batter struck out at least once.
Bakich was especially astonished by Oklahoma State starter Trey Cobb’s performance — he punched out 13 batters and allowed one run in six innings against the Wolverines on Saturday.
“(Cobb) was throwing a slider,” Bakich said. “It tunneled just like his fastball, and when you get a guy who has an exploding slider like that, it’s really tough to hit. He had a great day. A good pitcher had a great day.”
Michigan struck out 10 times in its final game on Sunday and collected 11 runs in its three games, but Bakich was reluctant to point out any notable high points for the offense over the entire series.
“I think the easy answer would be the inside-the-park home run (by designated hitter Drew Lugbauer on Saturday),” Bakich said. “But there are no offensive highlights when you strike out 17 times and lose the game.”
Currently, the Wolverines rank 66th in batting average with a .295 clip. Though that puts them in the top quarter of Division I baseball teams, they are tied for 10th in the Big Ten for runs scored.
Michigan players and Bakich have shown confidence that they can win the Big Ten Championship once again, but its problems at the plate have already proven costly this season. They struck out just 5.6 times per game last year and have climbed to 7.1 to begin this season.
Bakich gave advice to his team how to combat the issue.
“When you do get two strikes,” Bakich said, “you just got to choke up and have the mindset that, ‘There’s no way I’m not putting the barrel of my bat on this ball.’ ”