- Paul Sherman/Daily
By Steven Braid, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 27, 2012
All season long, the Michigan baseball team’s offense has been carried by the top of the batting order. Tuesday was no different.
Junior center fielder Patrick Biondi, freshman left fielder Will Drake and sophomore right fielder Michael O’Neill — the top three hitters in the lineup — provided all the production the Wolverines (12-12 overall) needed in their 6-1 victory against Oakland.
“Those three outfielders are pretty good,”said Michigan coach Rich Maloney. “We feel like we have three all-league type players out there in the outfield, which is a huge asset for us. They’re fun to watch.”
Against three Golden Grizzlies’ hurlers, the trio combined to go 5-for-12, accounting for all but two of Michigan’s hits. They also batted in five runs and stole two bases.
According to Maloney, the key to their success is simple.
“You’ve got to get timely hits,” Maloney said. “Even though we didn’t get it from the rest of the lineup, O’Neill got a timely hit today and Drake got a timely hit today.”
All five of the outfielders’ RBIs came on timely, two-out hits. In the bottom of the third inning, with sophomore catcher Cole Martin on first base, Biondi smacked a double down the right-field line to put runners at second and third base. After Drake struck out, O’Neill laced a two-out, two-run single to left field. Those runs would be all Michigan needed for the rest of the day, but the trio wasn’t finished.
With two outs in the seventh inning and Michigan’s lead cut to 2-1, Biondi walked. He then stole second before scoring on a left-field single by Drake, providing the Wolverines with an insurance run.
“Obviously there are roles there,” O’Neill said. “Patrick’s job is to get on (base) — get hit, get a hit or walk. With the way Will puts the ball in play, he’s just trying to move him over … and then obviously my job is to drive (Patrick) in. I think we did a really nice job of knowing our roles today and executing our roles.”
Later, with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning, Biondi batted in two runs when he roped a double down the right-field line.
With his two hits against the Golden Grizzlies (3-17), Biondi prolonged his hitting streak to seven games. During his streak, he has batted 13-for-24 and has walked eight times, collecting eight runs and five RBIs. And in the last four games, Biondi’s batting average has skyrocketed from .243 to .307. Before he struck out in the fifth inning, the center fielder had reached base on 10-consecutive plate appearances.
“That’s what you need from your leadoff hitter,” Maloney said after Biondi went 4-for-5 against IPFW on Sunday. “He needs to be the table setter, and that’s what will help change this team.”
But as much as Maloney is impressed with the production of Biondi, Drake and O’Neill, he’s just as worried about the lack of production from everyone else.
“Am I concerned?” Maloney asked. “Absolutely.”
Against a mediocre pitching staff, the rest of the lineup managed just two hits and couldn’t replicate the trio’s knack for two-out RBIs, leaving men in scoring position on two separate occasions. In last weekend’s series against the Mastodons, they left 22 men on base.
“The rest of the lineup needs to be able to get the timely hit,” Maloney said. “If you’re not going to have a lot of opportunities, you’ve got to make the most of the few you have."