For most transfers, there’s an acclimation period. Players not only have to get to know their own surroundings, but they also have to feel comfortable in a new system. It can take some time until transfers feel ready to produce.
But for graduate shortstop Cody Jefferis and junior catcher Gabe Sotres — transfers from San Diego State and Michigan State, respectively — the acclimation period has been non-existent. Both played vital roles in the Michigan baseball team’s performance at the MLB Desert Invitational and are already carving out essential roles in the Wolverines’ lineup.
From the first game onward, Jefferis and Sotres both made immediate contributions. Although only going 1-for-4 at the plate, Sotres’ one hit was a crucial go-ahead home run. The home run marked the first in his collegiate career. In the fifth inning, Sotres also used his arm to throw out a runner attempting to steal second base, showcasing himself as a factor in Michigan’s above-average defensive performance on the day.
“Arm-wise, I think (Sotres) creates a little bit of doubt in that other dugout,” Michigan coach Tracy Smith said Sunday. “He’s got a good throwing arm … He’s just a sparkplug.”
But Sotres didn’t stop there. In Sunday’s matchup against Grand Canyon, he notched his second home run of the season, allowing the Wolverines to establish some momentum after falling behind early against the Antelopes. Sotres later hit a single and a double in the contest, proving his knack for advancing runners in a game that Michigan eventually was able to escape with a victory. At key moments, Sortres was integral to team success time and again.
Through three games, Sotres leads the team in batting average, hitting .455, and on-base percentage (OBP) with a metric of 1.629. His ability to hit for extra bases has been crucial to the Wolverines’ offense thus far and the team will look to rely on his presence with its starting catcher, senior Jimmy Obertop, sidelined indefinitely due to an injury.
Conversely, in three of his first four games, Jefferis has not been able to make consistent contact. But despite his low batting average of just .200, Jefferis is finding other ways to make it on base by drawing walks, indicated by his .368 OBP
While failing to get a hit against Fresno State, Jefferis showed his composure at the plate by being walked twice, and one of those times even making his way around the bases to score for Michigan. As the leadoff batter, his creativity in getting on base has created opportunities for his teammates to put more runs on the board.
“I enjoy hitting leadoff,” Jefferis said Sunday. “I’m really trying to just get on base. … (I) don’t try to do too much and get something started (and) that’s the goal, just trying to keep it going and pass the torch to the next guy.”
And even while each individually makes an impact, the pair’s prior experiences at other programs have been essential to the Wolverines’ dugout.
“I think (the experience) helps for sure,” Jefferis said. “You’re able to help some younger guys and some guys that maybe don’t have as much experience. … It’s pretty great for Gabe and (me) to be able to be here and play for this team.”
With uncertainty still surrounding much of Michigan’s season, Sotres and Jefferis’s contributions cannot be overstated. And so far, the two seem to be perfectly equipped to turn Michigan’s confidence into results.