On March 6, sophomore outfielder Jake Marti stepped into the batter’s box for the first time as a member of the Michigan baseball team — and as a Division I athlete. He’d spent the last two years raking at Heartland Community College, where he earned an All-Midwest Athletic Conference selection, but that’s no guarantee of success in the Division I game.
“It’s a big jump coming from a junior college to this level,” Marti admitted.
Still, in his first taste of Division I action, Marti looked right at home. On the first pitch he saw, he connected for a two-run double that gave the No. 18 Wolverines an early lead in their season opener against Iowa.
Marti wasn’t the only transfer bat to help Michigan to its 3-1 weekend series victory. He and shortstop Benjamin Sems, catcher Griffin Mazur and third baseman Christian Molfetta — all fifth-year transfers — combined for a .334/.480/.590 slash line and participated in several game-breaking rallies.
“They’re here to fill some holes and plug some gaps, and that’s exactly what they did,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said.
When the Hawkeyes tied game one in the seventh inning, the Wolverines didn’t wait long before reclaiming the lead. After sophomore outfielder Tito Flores began the eighth with a double, he advanced to third off a bunt from Sems and driven in by a Molfetta single.
“He’s a hell of a player and a versatile player,” Bakich said of Molfetta. “He stepped right into third base and filled in for (sophomore third baseman) Ted Burton,” who missed the series with an illness. “He made outstanding plays defensively and he had a ton of quality at-bats.”
After a quiet showing in game two, Michigan’s offense returned in game three, led by its transfers. With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the second, it was Mazur’s turn for heroics; he crushed a changeup to left-center field for a grand slam.
“We weren’t hurting for a hit, but we needed a hit to open things up, let everyone relax a little bit,” Mazur said in an interview posted on Michigan baseball’s Twitter account. “It was pretty awesome to get that first hit in a Michigan uniform. These guys have done nothing but accept me, and bring me into the team.”
Mazur’s coaches and teammates shared his enthusiasm for the highlight.
“He got voted one of the team captains, and his leadership is just off the charts,” Bakich said. “He’s a sparkplug, he gets big hits, he’s a clutch hitter. He’s a general out there on the field. He’s got all the intangible skills you would want.”
Added Flores: “You love to see your brother hit a homerun. … He’s a wonderful person, and that’s why he’s one of our captains on this team.”
By the final game of the series, Marti, Molfetta and Mazur were hitting first, third and fourth in the order, respectively. They joined Sems to combine for six runs and nine hits in a dominant 11-4 win.
None of this quartet had played for Michigan before, and one of them was new to Division I baseball entirely. But they needed just one series to establish themselves as cornerstones of the Wolverines’ offense.
“It’s an awesome experience to come in here and know that I’m not alone, with all the transfers,” Marti said. “A bunch of new faces, making the lineup and just stringing together at-bats. I felt like we fed off each other’s energy really well all weekend, so that was really cool to see.”
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