Coming off a disappointing four-game sweep at the hands of Minnesota last weekend, the Michigan baseball team looks ahead to its matchup this weekend with Iowa as a chance to squeeze its way back into the thick of the race for the Big Ten title.
Although he was disappointed that his team lost all four games, Michigan coach Rich Maloney took to heart the fact that his squad managed to keep the Golden Gophers from breaking away in the first three games of the series.
“Really, in (the Minnesota) series, it was really close games for three of the games,” Maloney said. “We just had a bad game on Sunday. But outside of that, those games could have gone either way. Even though we didn’t hit very much, they didn’t hit very much either.”
Michigan bounced back from the sweep and defeated Central Michigan on Wednesday, 7-2, by playing the same way that has brought the Wolverines to a 17-3 nonconference record. Maloney believes that the Wolverines’ trademark style of situational baseball will help them against the Hawkeyes.
“We just need to do the same things we always do,” Maloney said. “Middle and other way hitting, having good at bats, making sure that we’re not swinging at bad pitches. I thought we did a good job of that (Wednesday).”
Maloney realizes that his team needs wins this weekend to start climbing back into the race, but he is focusing on winning individual games rather than concerning himself with a race for the title.
“There’s no question that it’s important we get (wins) this weekend,” Maloney said. “It’s not rocket science. But at the same token, we just have to play good baseball. I think we have to take it one game at a time right now. We can’t even think of the race right now. We just need to think about winning some games and getting back into the middle of the pack.”
Rocket Richard: After joining the Michigan baseball team for the first time this year, sophomore pitcher Clayton Richard earned his first start for the Wolverines on Wednesday against Central Michigan. Richard, who serves double duty as a quarterback on Michigan’s football team, pitched just three innings. Maloney wanted him to be able to come out of the bullpen for this weekend’s series against Iowa.
“Coach decided on a pitch count and wanted to keep me under a certain amount of pitches,” Richard said. “That way the recovery time will be less, so I’ll be able and ready to go. It was about 45 or 50, so, hopefully, I’ll be ready to go this weekend.”
Because this is Richard’s first season as a collegiate pitcher, Maloney is happy to see him progressing quickly as a pitcher.
“I think he did real well,” Maloney said. “I think the more we get him out there, the better, eventually, he’s going to be … As we get him out there more, he’s going to get a better feel. I think he’s been doing a really good job at this point.”
Even though it was his first start, Richard believes that the difference between a short start like Wednesday’s and coming out of the bullpen is minimal.
“You’re always ready to come in the game,” Richard said. “So whether you come out of the bullpen or start, it’s all the same, you’re always prepared to come into the game.”
Run Count: It seems bored Wolverines’ fans have a new sport to capture their attention. After the hockey team was knocked out in the regional final of the NCAA Tournament and the basketball team failed to advance to postseason play, the attendance at baseball games has increased.
Hockey and basketball fans have been getting a kick out of the close quarters at The Fish, taking note of the laughs and smiles they get from opposing players when they use their modified hockey cheers to get in the heads of visiting teams.
At Wednesday’s game against Central Michigan, the “Run Count” — a modified version of Yost fans’ Goal Count Chant — was led by someone used to being on the receiving end of those cheers — senior hockey captain Eric Nystrom.
“It’s a beautiful day, and I know some of the guys on the team,” Nystrom said. “I love coming to baseball games — they are a lot of fun. Some of my teammates came out, and some of my friends from other teams are here today. I wouldn’t want to spend an afternoon any other way.”
Home fan support is a huge advantage in any sport — as Nystrom understands from playing in Yost Ice Arena — and Michigan athletes can often be found supporting each other on off weekends.
“The athletic community is such a tight community, and I have so many friends that play on different sports teams,” Nystrom said. “They come and support me, so when I get a chance, I love coming out and supporting Michigan.”
Nystrom was named the “fan of the game” at Wednesday’s game and thoroughly enjoyed his experience.
“It’s cool — It’s definitely a unique experience to be on the other side,” Nystrom said. “The fans are so amazing at Yost, so to sit out there and be a part of it, it’s amazing.”