When the Michigan baseball team hits well with runners in scoring position, it tends to win. On Saturday, the team not only hit well with runners on base, but it did so six times to score eight runs.
The past five games were not favorable to the Wolverines’ offense, as they scored three runs or less in every game within that span. Despite winning two of the bouts, the offense struggled to find any momentum and relied upon an inconsistent pitching staff to get wins.
On Saturday, the story completely changed, combining strong pitching with dominant hitting that led to a Michigan win.
“The other day, we had a lot of hard-hit balls but they just didn’t fall,” junior right fielder Clark Elliott said. “Today they fell for us. A lot of our guys are sticking with their approach, trusting what was going on, trusting in the process and trusting their work and it really paid off today.”
Michigan coach Erik Bakich has preached all season that the hits will fall and the runs will score. They just haven’t been consistent.
“We buy into hard hits and hitting the ball as hard as you possibly can and smashing it,” Bakich said. “We have been hitting the ball hard, but the runs just haven’t fallen and the runs. But the runs are going to follow because if you keep hitting the ball hard good things are gonna happen. I’m convinced of that.”
On Saturday, instead of trying to hit the ball out of the yard, the team bought into a carousel mentality, advancing the runner in front of them that contributed to the eight runs that led Michigan to a win.
In the third inning, this opportunistic hitting shined as the Wolverines turned a bases-loaded situation into three runs. They didn’t score from home runs or extra-base hits. They scored on walks, hit by pitches and sacrifice fly balls.
Similarly in the fourth, Michigan scored twice more on a weird hop from Elliott that jumped the glove of the second baseman and another weird hop off of the bat of junior infielder Ted Burton that scored the runner from second both times.
“I thought Clark Elliott did a good job setting the table,” Bakich said. “He was on base all five times. And then we just had contributions from a lot of people up and down the lineup. We got into scoring position, we had a couple of sac flies and a couple of two out RBI hits. We also got some fortunate bounces that went our way. We just stayed positive and stayed with it and the game came back around.”
In addition to the consistent hitting, the team drew seven walks which contributed to the high run totals.
While it is too early to tell if the team is headed in the right direction as they prepare for two rivals in Notre Dame and Michigan State this week, two wins in a row is a positive sign. If the Wolverines want to get back on track, they will need to rely more on hitting for contact than power like they did today to defeat the stronger teams in their path.