- Patrick Barron/Daily
By Jeremy Summitt, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 28, 2013
Michigan senior center fielder Patrick Biondi was a thief in high school. He hasn’t changed his ways in college much.
But it’s only illegal if you get caught, right?
On Wednesday, April 24, in the Michigan baseball team’s 15-10 loss to Eastern Michigan, Biondi was never caught stealing. He went 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts, setting a new Big Ten record for most stolen bases in a single game. Iowa’s Lance Platz set the previous record of five on April 15, 1979.
“Pat has great technique because he gets great jumps, he generates terrific momentum, and most of the time he usually knows what the pitcher is going to do,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich.
Biondi also reached his milestone 100th stolen base in his collegiate career, and now has 103 as a Wolverine. With that mark, Biondi moves into a tie for third among the all-time Big Ten stolen bases leaders with Iowa’s Craig Conti (1983-1986). Biondi now sits behind Indiana’s Mickey Morandini (1985-88) who had 127 and Indiana’s Jeff Stout (1985-88) with 105. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise for Biondi to pass Stout and Conti, but Morandini’s record may be untouchable at this point.
Biondi was highly heralded for his ability to steal bases in high school, and that technique that he has down so well plays right into Bakich’s offensive philosophy. Bakich wants speed on the base paths and timely hitting with runners in scoring position.
“That’s going to be a staple of this program from here on out,” Bakich said. “That’s how were recruiting. We’re recruiting athletes and we’re recruiting speed.”
Michigan leads the Big Ten with 87 stolen bases this season, and Biondi and junior right fielder Michael O’Neill lead the charge with 15 and 17, respectively. Biondi’s number is a bit deflated, too, after being out with a thumb injury for several weeks earlier in the season.
Don’t give all the credit to the players, though, as Bakich is actively promoting stealing on his team. Along with Biondi, Bakich has mentored less experienced teammates in order to become one of the best base-running teams in the nation. Getting players to third with less than two outs is a sure way to increase offensive production, and Bakich maintains this as one of the main reasons he holds base-stealing as such a high priority.
“Coach Bakich does a really good job of teaching base stealing,” Biondi said. “A lot of the stuff that I talk to them about is the same stuff that coach Bakich keeps up with.”
Added Bakich: “Base-stealing is a technique; it’s a skill, and we’re very good at it.”
And when Bakich says the Wolverines are very good at it, some would say he’s acting somewhat modest. Michigan ranks 14th nationally in stolen bases and has been caught just 21 times in 108 attempts, good for a remarkable 80 percent success rate.
Bakich loves the plentiful opportunities to drive in runs after his guys snag second and third base, and the players get even more joy out of reaching bases just before that tag comes in.
“It’s a good feeling obviously,” Biondi said. “You get to second, get into scoring position. It’s always good to help your team that way. It’s always cool as a base-stealer to do that.”
Biondi’s masterful technique has been evident ever since he came to Ann Arbor, and his legacy will continue to live on in the record books and through the younger Wolverines for seasons to come.
How, you ask?
Bakich will keep recruiting thieves. But he’ll make sure they’re good guys away from the diamond, too.