Play the game in front of you.
That is the philosophy the Michigan baseball team has practiced all season.
The future and the past don’t matter to the Wolverines. What matters is the moment: to play today, and win today.
“We’re just trying to stay locked in the moment,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said after an extra-innings comeback over Ohio State. “Be where our feet are.”
That mentality is one the team has stuck to through the ups and downs of the season.
“For us (our mentality) doesn’t change,” graduate center fielder Joe Stewart said. “It’s the same it’s been all year … take it one game at a time … the next game is a new day.”
The Wolverines have repeatedly shown their ability to bounce back from losses and difficult starts to games.
In a doubleheader against Iowa — after getting blown out 8-2 — they shut the Hawkeyes out in game two. After a tough midweek loss Notre Dame, they proceeded to sweep Michigan State the following weekend.
Their comeback against the Buckeyes this past week is the latest example of the steadiness this team can find.
Coming off consecutive weekend sweeps, Michigan seemed primed to steam roll a struggling Ohio State team. But in the second inning of game one it looked like that wouldn’t be the case. The Buckeyes came out with a devastating five-run second inning against sophomore left-hander Connor O’Halloran — who had been absolutely lights out in all home starts up to that point.
But the Wolverines didn’t crumble. They kept their focus and clawed their way back, sending the game to extras before walking it off.
“We don’t mind playing from deficits,” Bakich said. “We have a lot of confidence that we can score runs and find a way to put zeros up on defense.”
The Buckeyes played hard all weekend, and in winning the series, Michigan showed a higher level of grit that this team didn’t display at the start of the season.
The Wolverines have seen many comebacks fall short, and many leads disappear. But they stuck with it and never let the losses discourage them. Over the past few weeks they have begun to consistently find themselves on the right side of close games. Their hard-hit balls have been finding open field, their pitchers are finding the strike zone with more consistency and it’s resulting in more wins.
But Michigan is not changing its outlook.
“Anytime you can build positive momentum for yourselves, for the team, that’s great,” Bakich said. “(But) we still have a lot of work to do.”
As the Wolverines enter the second half of their conference schedule, they’ll need to continue to find ways to win.
Michigan is currently fifth place in the Big Ten with a record of 8-4. With series against Rutgers and Maryland — who are first and second place respectively — on the horizon the Wolverines still have a lot to play for.
But before they get there, Michigan has to keep doing what it has been doing — take one step at a time.