Following Tuesday’s 14-5 blowout of the Michigan baseball team at the hands of No. 9 Notre Dame, the Wolverines’ fading NCAA tournament hopes took another significant blow.
The 14 runs scored by the Fighting Irish tied a single-game high for Michigan’s season, with the 12 men left on base by the Wolverines’ lineup — including two innings with the bases loaded — also nearing the most of a single outing this season.
While Michigan’s record still sits two games over .500, the concern comes from the strength of it, particularly in the eyes of the NCAA’s ranked percentage index, or RPI. For some teams, RPI will propel them into unexpected tournament bids. For the Wolverines, it potentially might keep them out of a bid altogether.
Of Michigan’s 17 wins this season, more have come from Quadrant 4 — what would be considered the weakest grouping of the bunch — than the other three quadrants combined. In contrast, the Wolverines sit at a paltry 3-9 record against teams ranked in the highest two quadrants.
There have been chances to up their ranking that were ultimately squandered, namely a loss via walk-off passed ball against No. 17 Vanderbilt and a come from behind defeat at the hands of No. 4 Texas Tech. But despite two résumé-building victories against No. 24 Maryland and No. 11 Louisville that gave the Wolverines hope, Michigan has had its strength of record decimated by losses against some of the lowest-ranked teams in the RPI.
“We’ve played a bunch of ranked teams already, and we’ve had chances to beat a lot of ranked teams as well,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “We haven’t played a complete game against some of these teams, and the better the team the smaller the margins, but even against teams with a bad record like Purdue Fort Wayne we’ve been finding out the hard way what happens when we don’t play complete games.
“We’re at a point now where we just need to play well. At this point in this season, it’s clearly what’s most important.”
The ‘signature wins’ part of the Wolverines’ résumé building has largely come and gone. Only the series rematch against Maryland and the season finale against Rutgers remain on Michigan’s schedule as teams ranked above 100 in RPI. Gaining consistency against the lower ranked opponents on their schedule, particularly in midweek games, will be paramount to keeping their tournament hopes on life support.
“We’ve been getting knocked down and getting back up all season, and we just got to stay up in some of these games,” Bakich said. “We play well and then don’t play well and then play well and don’t play well, and we’re still chasing consistency but just haven’t found answers for it, especially in the midweek games.
It’s been a very frustrating roller coaster of a season so far. It’s inexcusable.”