The Michigan baseball team is very confusing.
Throughout this rollercoaster of a season it’s been very hard to predict which version of the Wolverines will show up on any given day. However, one thing has been constant:
They love to go yard.
Michigan stands at third in the Big Ten, only trailing the top two seeds in the conference. The Wolverines rank in the top 50 nationally for home runs per game at 1.42. The 75 total bombs is the most Michigan has had in a regular season since any of the players on the team were born. The only years on par are 2008 and 2019, and in both of those seasons, the Wolverines won the Big Ten tournament.
“We’ve hit a lot of home runs this year and more than we’ve ever had, or at least this feels like that through the regular season,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “And it’s just a veteran lineup that has a disciplined approach.”
The two headed monster of junior right fielder Clark Elliott and graduate center fielder Joe Stewart lead the way with 12 and 11 homers respectively. Four other Michigan players trail shortly behind with at least nine. The power spread throughout the lineup makes it a constant threat for production.
And although that hasn’t always translated to wins throughout the season, in the Big Ten Tournament, it could make the difference. .
While many of the Wolverine bats threaten through the long ball, Elliott’s impressive game extends beyond home runs. He also led the team in OPS, RBIs and walks and slashed an impressive .349/.467/.611. Elliott’s efforts make him one of the most dangerous leadoff hitters in the country and earned him all-Big Ten first team honors.
The Michigan bats are coming off of a very hot four game stretch where they’ve scored at least nine runs in every game and won three of four. However, the pitching is on a historical stretch of its own.
The Wolverines have given up at least six runs in 10 straight games, a streak that hasn’t been matched in over 100 years.
Meanwhile, Illinois’s ace, left-hander Cole Kirschsieper, is pitching an impressive season with a 3.17 ERA, 7-2 record, and 85 strikeouts in just 81 innings. Kirschsieper earned all-Big Ten second team honors and will make for an extremely tough matchup for Michigan.
Elliott doesn’t fare as well against southpaws as a lefty himself, so the pressure will be on the depth of the Wolverine’s lineup to keep up with the Illini.
Illinois is a tough four seed, only missing out on the two seed by tiebreak. Although Michigan comes into this game as the underdog, the Wolverines have shown throughout the season that their explosiveness and power can beat any opponent. Michigan will need its massive bats to come through big time in the key first round matchup. If the Wolverines can hit five homers —the number they hit in the first game against the Scarlet Knights — an upset is on the horizon.