If there is a time to peak as a player or a team, it is in the conference tournament.
Although the Michigan baseball team got swept by Maryland two weeks ago, it came into the tournament scoring nine or more runs in its last five games.
The Wolverines have proven their ability to score all season. The true test for Michigan coach Erik Bakich would be how his veterans and transfers would play when the stage got bigger.
On Friday night, not only did the Wolverines get their revenge against the Terrapins, but they did so behind the offensive prowess of their veterans.
As he has been doing consistently all season, junior right-fielder Clark Elliott continued to get on base for Michigan. Elliott repeatedly found himself in scoring position in Friday’s game, starting from the very first at-bat of the game for the Wolverines, in which he drew a walk — one of three total free passes he received. On top of scoring all three times he got on base via walk, Elliott added to his performance by launching a two-run home run in the seventh inning that extended Michigan’s lead to six and gave the Wolverines some more breathing room.
A player who has been with the program even longer than Elliott is senior shortstop Riley Bertram. While he has had many strong offensive performances in his four years with Bakich, none appear to be as impactful as Friday night.
In the third inning, Bertram blew the lead open for Michigan behind a two-run double that put the Wolverines up 5-2. In the fourth inning, Bertram came through again, bringing in another two runs with a double that extended their lead to six. He followed those doubles up with two more singles to give him a four-hit game.
Bertram isn’t the only senior for the Wolverines who had a big game, though. Prior to the season, Bakich brought in grad-transfer center fielder Joe Stewart and third baseman Matt Frey to give the lineup extra power and speed that he felt was lacking.
And on Friday night, their impact was felt.
After Stewart’s big performance last night against Illinois, Frey took the opportunity to step up against the Terrapins and have a big game of his own. Supplying an RBI double to get Michigan on the board first, Frey followed that up with two more RBI singles that gave him a total of four RBIs for the night and gave the Wolverines the lead on three occasions.
When the stakes were higher, Michigan did what it could not do two weeks ago against Maryland. While the pitching held down the fort strong enough, the Wolverines simply out-hit the top-seeded Terrapins and scored 15 runs.
Bakich said at the beginning of the season that his intention was to put out a veteran team that has been in situations like conference tournaments before. Now, it appears to be paying off after beating higher-seeded teams in back-to-back games and putting Michigan in a position where a Big Ten Championship is possible.
If the offensive production is going to continue, it will have to be through the upperclassmen.