It’s still early.
That is the message Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich is sending to the team and the media on the season. It was also his response to concerns about the Wolverines’ pitching staff.
“I suppose that’s why it’s called the beginning of the year,” Bakich said. “We’re not supposed to be in midseason form.”
Although runs were the story behind Michigan’s series against Florida Atlantic University, the relief pitching forced the games to be close.
The Wolverines lost 9-8 in the final inning on Tuesday and won 20-13 on Wednesday. At first glance, it looks like Michigan lost a close game and won in a blowout. But if you look further, the Wolverines held substantial leads in both games.
On Tuesday, Michigan had a lead of 5-0 going into before trouble arose. It wasn’t big hits that got the Owls back in the game. It was a combination of walks, wild pitches, errors and bloop singles that tallied five runs for FAU to tie it up in the sixth inning.
In the ninth inning, Michigan had a one-run lead. No one wanted to think this was similar to the Texas Tech game when the Wolverines gave up two runs in the ninth inning to lose a winnable game, but it was. With the bases loaded, the Owls strung together a walk and a walk-off single to win the game.
“A lot of the pitchers are new,” Bakich said. “Cam Weston returns to his role Jacob Denner returns to his role. Willie Weiss returns at the back end. But everyone else is new. So we knew we’d have some growing pains.”
Despite Bakich’s enthusiasm for a quick turnaround, Michigan found itself in a shootout once again Wednesday.
Staked to a 14-7 lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Wolverines found themselves in a much more comfortable position than the night before. Six outs and the game would be over. With three walks, three hits and a hit by pitch, FAU found itself within a single run going into the ninth inning.
“We just got to do a (better) job of focusing on not walking people, and instead, attacking the big part of the strike zone and letting our defense work,” Bakich said. “Nobody’s trying to walk people. Nobody’s trying to give free passes. It’s not it’s not a lack of anything physical. It’s just getting the reps. The more the better.”
The Wolverines played a five-game series this past week. They went through a lot of pitchers, three of who hadn’t even played a collegiate game before. It is no surprise there were hiccups and mistakes along the way.
“When I say they’re new, I mean they’re new,” Bakich said. “Three guys who never pitched at college before until last night. With some of the injuries that we have, the pitchers that are out right now like Jack White, Keaton Caratini and John Torroella, three older guys in college, we are really not built for a five-game week right now.”
Luckily for Michigan, it will not be playing a five-game week until May. For now, it has the pieces to string together three-game weekends to get the job done — or at least a better job than it did this past weekend.
“(Going forward) about 12 hitters will have 90% of the at-bats and about 10 pitchers will have 90% of the innings pitched,” Bakich said. “That’s how it typically is every single year. As we get into three-game weekends, you’re gonna see a lot more Chase Allen, a lot more of Noah Renard, and obviously Willie Weiss and Logan Wood; two guys who don’t have good numbers right now but have plenty of good stuff.
“It’ll be fine.”