After a spring break in California that saw mixed results, Michigan will finally host its home opening series over the next four days.
Following an impressive win against No. 2 UCLA, as well as disappointing losses against Southern California, No. 19 Oklahoma State and Long Beach State, the Wolverines are ready to move on and smooth out the inconsistencies that were on display last week. Four consecutive matchups against Manhattan College offer an opportunity to do just that.
During its slates last week, the season’s most challenging stretch thus far, the No. 23 Michigan baseball team (9-4) couldn’t find a meaningful rhythm on the offensive nor defensive fronts. While the team’s strong pitching and defense often kept things close and helped solidify the intermittent success it found, its relief pitching was at times unable to prevent a growing run deficit in key moments. In Saturday’s game against the Trojans, after a hard-fought seven innings of strong defense from both teams, the Wolverines’ relief pitchers conceded two runs in the final two innings which kept a comeback out of reach.
Despite surprisingly strong hitting in the first few games of the season, Michigan’s offense struggled to consistently score runs when it mattered most. During the ninth inning against the Dirtbags, for instance, the Wolverines’ comeback chances fizzled as a rally came up one run too short. The same happened after going to extra innings against the Cowboys.
The team’s mindset now shifts towards making improvements at home.
“(The offense) is clearly our biggest area for improvement right now,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “Being at a so-called northern cold-weather school where you do these trips where you go away for 10 days because you can’t play any home games … you see the players are just out of their routines.”
Bakich, typically loath to set expectations or make promises, seems firm in his belief that some time at home will be good for the team.
“I am 100-percent confident that our offense is going to start surging very soon,” he said. “Especially now that we’re coming home and we’re going to have some normalcy to our schedule. Being at home for the next five games … is going to be a lot easier on the players.”
Playing the unranked Jaspers (8-4) at home offers the Wolverines a chance to hone their strengths on offense against a mid-major opponent. But with far more difficult matchups ahead –– including an away series against No. 9 Texas Tech starting Mar. 21 –– the team will need to develop a more consistent rhythm before it hits the road that can be leveraged in crucial moments.
Bakich was clear about his and the team’s resolve to find that rhythm.
“When we play Manhattan this weekend, we’ll definitely be a more improved team than what we showed this last week,” Bakich said.
After a season of away games so far, being on the familiar turf of Ray Fisher Stadium may help that improvement be realized.