Freshman right-hander Willie Weiss was thrown into the fray in the second inning on Sunday against The Citadel. The Michigan baseball team turned to Weiss after the first inning struggles of redshirt junior pitcher Benjamin Keizer had put them down 2-0.
Three batters, eight pitches and three outs later, Weiss walked off the mound with the ship righted. The Wolverines never looked back.
Weiss calmly struck out the first batter swinging. The second struck out looking. The third was retired after a pop-up to first base on the opening pitch.
The right hander was not fazed throughout his 2.2 innings, only his second regular-season appearance for the Wolverines. Weiss got the first two batters he faced out in the third inning before he faced a mini-jam with runners on second and first after a single, wild pitch and a walk. Weiss escaped the inning unscathed after a line drive out by Bulldogs junior infielder Ben Peden.
“When you have some hitters that are facing really good pitchers and pitchers that are facing really good hitters on your own team, then the learning curve can get sped up a little bit,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “And be improved once you get into outside competition.”
Weiss has made a name for himself as the only freshman to have an early-season impact for the Wolverines.
He was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for baseball in the state of Oregon for the 2017-18 high school season. Weiss was one of the most sought-after recruits in the nation and was a highlight of Michigan’s 2018 recruiting class. He was ranked the 22nd right-handed pitcher by Perfect Game’s recruiting service.
Bakich was high on Weiss prior to the season.
“He’s a guy that, he’s a strong physical specimen. 6-foot-3, 220 lbs, throws hard, has a good slider, a good breaking ball. He’s got a chance to be a starter or a closer for us. He’s really had a nice fall, a nice preseason, one of those freshmen that had a chance to make an impact no matter where he went.”
So far this season, he’s made that impact felt.
Weiss finished Sunday with no hits, no earned runs and four strikeouts after facing 10 batters. He also was awarded the first win of his career.
Weiss showed resilience after easing into his first start in which he lasted a single inning against Binghamton on Feb. 16. Weiss provided a steady hand on the road when the Wolverines were down a run, which allowed the offense to kick into gear.
“Now, it’s a long season and we got a long way to go, he’s got a long way to go,” Bakich said. “But, so far through the fall, through the preseason in the early goings of this season, he certainly seems to have adjusted well and is pitching well. And that’ll be the challenge, like many of the freshmen before him, is to be able to be consistent and maintain that throughout the course of the next four months.”