He doesn’t call them superstitions, he calls them routines.
Every game, Michigan baseball freshman Jacob Cronenworth does a few things the same way. He places his bag in the same spot in the dugout and puts his uniform on in a particular order.
But it doesn’t matter what he calls it. All that matters is that it’s certainly working for him.
Cronenworth, a two-way player as a second baseman and a right-handed pitcher, is leading the Wolverines both offensively and defensively in his first season. He has knocked in a team-high 17 RBI in 18 games, and he has posted a stellar 2.14 ERA in 8.1 innings of work as a reliever.
His best outing of the season came on March 10 against Holy Cross when he pitched the final three scoreless innings en route to his third save of the season.
Not even Michigan coach Erik Bakich could’ve predicted the tremendous start Cronenworth has built thus far.
“I don’t think you ever expect a freshman to step in there and perform at a high level right away,” Bakich said. “There’s usually an adjustment period, but he’s done a great job of really focusing on having quality at-bats and making quality pitches.”
Even though Michigan hasn’t hit many home runs collectively, Cronenworth still leads that offensive category with two on the year. Cronenworth said that as a kid, he used to like hitting more than pitching, but it has balanced out since he arrived at Michigan.
Rightly so. His arm has served him just as well as his bat lately. Remaining focused on both sides of the ball tends to be a challenge that Cronenworth has stepped right up to as a budding playmaker for Michigan’s young roster.
“Usually when I’m in the field or at the plate, I’m focused on hitting,” Cronenworth said. “And then, whenever I have to go in at the seventh, eight or ninth inning, whenever that time comes that I’m warming up in the bullpen, my mind kind of switches where I’m all pitching.”
With that philosophy, Cronenworth makes it seem pretty simple to stay alert offensively and defensively, but under his humble attitude is a work ethic that never stops operating. He made a pledge to Bakich to beef up before the season began, and a significant weight gain was just a glimpse of what Cronenworth had in store for the upcoming season.
“He’s one of those guys that is always working on his game outside of practice hours on his own, whether it be in the hitting cages, or whatever,” Bakich said. “He’s invested a lot of time into his improvement, and results are showing now. It’s a testament to his hard work.”
All his pre- and in-season motivation, and quite possibly those routines, have propelled Michigan to some recent success. The Wolverines are 6-4 in their past 10 games, which is a significant improvement from getting swept by California on opening weekend just a month ago.
Alongside already proven stars like senior center fielder Patrick Biondi and junior right fielder Michael O’Neill, Cronenworth continues to provide that extra boost Michigan has been hoping for.