Youth on display in baseball’s weekend in Texas, for better or for worse

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By Jason Rubinstein, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 16, 2014

Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich said earlier this week that his team’s abundance of youth would have ups and downs this season. And this was certainly on display this weekend at the Texas State Tournament in San Marcos, Texas.

Michigan jumped out to early leads in each of its four games this weekend but only held onto one, finishing 1-2-1. The competition included Texas State, Air Force and two games against Washington.

Relief pitching, when healthy, is one of the strongest areas for Michigan, but with sophomore Jacob Cronenworth recovering from labrum surgery, it became one of the weakest. Bakich expects the sophomore to be back in the next two weeks.

Without their premier closer, the Wolverines (1-2-1) threw freshman left-hander Brett Adcock to finish off Texas State (1-1) in the opening game.

The Wolverines went up 7-3 early and their bats were hot. But Michigan’s bats started to cool while the Bobcats’ bats started to find rhythm. After giving up a walk and two hits to load the bases, Michigan replaced fifth-year senior right-hander Logan McAnallen for Adcock midway through the eighth inning.

With the bases juiced and needing only one out, Adcock gave up a two-RBI single before giving up another RBI single, tying the game. Adcock remained in the game and got through the ninth inning, but couldn’t finish in the 10th inning. The freshman walked the first hitter before giving up the game-winning single to cap an 8-7 loss.

“(Adcock) is throwing strikes but just giving up some hits right now,” Bakich said. “Unfortunately the balls he gave up happened to find holes. He’s not going to get hit like that moving forward.”

Adcock’s struggles didn’t end there. The freshman couldn’t find any rhythm Sunday against Washington (2-1-1), giving up four hits and one earned run in his only inning pitched. The Wolverines couldn’t rebound from the pitching woes, tying the Huskies 7-7 in eight innings. The game had to end early due to travel conflicts.

“He’s actually going to be a really good pitcher for the program for this year and the years to come,” Bakich said.

But the bullpen’s woes weren’t limited to Adcock.

Up 6-3 after six against Washington, it looked liked the Wolverines were in the driver’s seat. But history repeated itself when freshman right-hander Keith Lehmann replaced junior left-hander Trent Szkutnik. The freshman gave up two runs in the eighth, including a two-run home run by infielder Alex Schmidt.

Soon after, redshirt freshman Jake Balicki replaced Lehmann. The right-hander struck out the side in the ninth inning before Schmidt hit his second two-run blast in the 10th inning to defeat Michigan, 8-6.

Lost in the late game collapses, though, was the youth’s offensive prowess.

Though he sat the first game of the weekend, freshman outfielder Jackson Lamb had himself quite the weekend. The reigning Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year was brought in to pinch-hit, and hit a two-run double in his first collegiate at-bat. Lamb kept the momentum going when he doubled to left field in the seventh inning and singled in the 10th.

The freshman remained hot the rest of the weekend, hitting a two-run double against Air Force, giving fifth-year senior Ben Ballantine all the run support he needed. The right-hander showed no signs of injury, throwing seven shutout innings, while only giving up one hit.

Lamb continued his hitting brilliance Sunday, hitting a two-run homer in the first inning.

“It’s like the old Bull Durham quote, ‘announce your presence with authority,’— that was Jackson Lamb,” Bakich said. “What a great statement. He makes as loud as contact and hits balls as hard you can hit balls all weekend long. He’s one of the guys coaches talk about — players that force them to keep writing their name in the lineup. He did that this weekend, that’s for sure.”

Lamb aside, the Wolverines got steady production from infielder Ramsey Romano. The freshman reached base in all four games, while also stealing a base and driving in two runs.

Cronenworth continued where he left off last season, batting .312 on the weekend with four RBI, two doubles and a triple.

The Wolverines certainly had its ups-and-downs this weekend, and is only beginning to find their identity.

“There were definitely some bright spots, but the biggest bright spot was getting the whole team out there competing against another jersey,” Bakich said. “Even though the outcome wasn’t what we wanted, we know we’re going to get better, there’s no question about that. The first time being outside since October was the biggest positive.”