When asked to sum up his team’s hitting mentality in one word, first-year Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney never hesitated.
“Confidence,” Maloney said. “The hitters are very confident, and they’re playing aggressively.”
Although the “C” word has become synonymous with success on the sandlot, with Michigan’s offensive numbers through its first 13 games, saying the Wolverines are just “confident” may be an understatement.
As a team, the Michigan offense is flourishing – the Wolverines (6-7) currently boast a .327 batting average, a .521 slugging percentage and average more than 8.5 runs per game. Less than a month into the season, Maloney admits to being surprised his ballclub has been able to jump out to such a hot offensive start.
“In watching our team practice in the fall, the winter and prior to the season, I felt like we were going to be a solid hitting team,” Maloney said. “But, to say that we would hit the way we have, I couldn’t have told you that – I mean this is pretty impressive.”
One reason for Michigan’s offensive outburst is its aggressive approach.
“We’re an offense that likes to do things,” Maloney said. ” We hit and run pretty well, we drag bunt pretty well, but in general, these guys just flat out hit.”
Individually, senior third baseman Brock Koman and junior catcher Jake Fox have paced the Wolverine attack. Koman, described by Maloney as a “pure hitter,” possesses a lofty .421 batting average. Fox has been the team’s biggest power source, hitting .377 while leading the team in homeruns (7), RBIs (21) and Slugging Percentage (.887). Senior Jordan Cantalamessa and junior Brandon Roberts have also significantly contributed to Michigan’s hefty offensive numbers.
“Those four guys in general have been outstanding,” Maloney said. “Hitting is a contagious thing, and right from the getgo, these boys hit.”
Unfortunately, hitting is only one half of baseball. With a pitching staff that has seen three freshmen and four sophomores toe the rubber, the Wolverines have struggled to slow down opposing offenses. As good as the Michigan offense has been, Maloney believes Blue’s success lies in consistent pitching.
“We definitely have to improve in the pitching area,” Maloney said. “When you’re scoring 8.5 runs, that gives you some grace because you know you don’t have to be perfect. But, we know that we have to get better because we know that on any given day you’re going to face a good pitcher, and good pitching shuts out good hitting.”
The young staff currently owns dismal 6.69 team earned run average – a large portion of which has come from the high number of homeruns (19) given up.
“We’ve got to lower the amount of runs we’ve been giving up. If we can get it down to giving up four or five runs a game, then we’re probably going to win our fair share of games with the lineup we have.”