The Michigan baseball team sits at the bottom of the Big Ten, but its season statistics show otherwise.

The Wolverines (4-8 Big Ten, 17-24 overall) are last in very few categories, but the most visible area of concern is a conference-high 309 strikeouts.

Hosting Indiana (6-6, 19-23) this weekend, Michigan has the chance to win the series, based on the Hoosiers’ lack of defensive production.

Though there’s a very fine line between the two teams’ offensive numbers, the Wolverines hold the advantage on the mound and in the field. Indiana has logged conference lows in almost all defensive rankings.

The Hoosiers pitching staff posts the highest ERA (4.89), and has given up the most hits (439), earned runs (204) and wild pitches (60) in the Big Ten.

Michigan should be confident in a matchup against Indiana’s defective bullpen, but the Wolverines’ starters stack up similarly to the Hoosiers.

Today, senior right-hander Brandon Sinnery looks for his fourth win of the season. He has given Michigan the lift it needed with his recent performances, giving up just nine earned runs and eight walks in 38.1 innings.

But the Wolverine batters will face left-hander Joey DeNato, who boasts a 2.43 ERA and a 6-1 record. He’s allowed just 17 earned runs and notched 49 strikeouts this year.

In a fairly even contest on the mound, it will come down to the batting order. Michigan coach Rich Maloney said there is a “reasonable chance” that freshman left-fielder Will Drake will be ready to play this weekend. He also suspects sophomore right-fielder Michael O’Neill to potentially see some time on the field if the team carries a late lead.

Without the pair, the Wolverines have struggled to find contact and consistency. They were top-tier hitters in the conference, but because of recent injuries, Drake and O’Neill haven’t been able to contribute their respective .316 and .322 averages.

Though there have been a number of players who filled the void in the lineup and found recent success, there’s been a shortage in “timely hits.”

Leaving runners on base has been an area of concern — since April 13, when Drake and O’Neill were left unavailable, Michigan has left 63 runners stranded.

“We’ve been playing, but we haven’t been capitalizing,” said freshman right-fielder Zach Zott.

If the Wolverines can’t generate runs on their own, Indiana might give them the win on freebies. The Hoosiers have given up the second-most walks in the conference (162) this season and stands last with 91 errors.

On Saturday, junior right-hander Ben Ballantine will start for the Wolverines, but his pitching has been inconsistent as of late. At the start of the season, he posted team highs and appeared at the top of Big Ten rankings. But throughout conference action, Ballantine has fell from the charts.

Against Penn State, Ballantine gave up just one earned run and three hits in six innings. But in his last outing against Northwestern, he was pulled from the mound after 4.2 innings, allowing three walks and four earned runs.

“Some games we’ll field good, but we won’t hit,” said senior third baseman John Lorenz. “Some games we’ll pitch good, but won’t hit good. We can’t seem to put it all together on a consistent basis.”

If it comes down to a rubber match, the series decision will be in the hands of freshman left-hander Trent Szkutnik. He’s shown much promise in his rookie campaign, but he’s experienced ups and downs like any adjusting freshman. With a 5.82 ERA, Szkutnik squares off almost evenly with Indiana right-hander Chad Martin’s 5.97 ERA.

Stuck at the bottom, the Wolverines remain hopeful for the weekend and the last stretch of Big Ten games.

“We still fully believe we’re going to make the Big Ten tournament,” Lorenz said. “If we get there, who knows what can happen.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.