Listed charitably at 5-foot-6, senior co-captain Matt Butler of the Michigan baseball team is doing some big things.
Butler was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday after going 11-for-16 with five RBI, two walks and zero strikeouts in this weekend’s home-opening series against Oakland University.
It was the second time this season Butler received the weekly honor — the first came on March 7.
Even though Butler didn’t produce any go-ahead runs this weekend, if Michigan (15-3 overall) was threatening to score, he was involved. Whether it was a bloop single or an opposite-field base hit, Butler constantly found ways to keep an inning alive.
“When there are runners on base in a tight situation, I tell myself the pitcher needs to come in the zone — he can’t afford to walk me,” Butler said. “There’s also going to be more holes because infielders are holding guys on.”
The Lombard, Ill. native is posting some serious numbers this season. Butler has managed to fill up just about every offensive category on the stat sheet, batting .436 while leading the conference in hits (34), doubles (10) and total bases (57) — he also ranks among the top five in runs scored (22) and RBI (21).
One stat eluding the leadoff man is stolen bases. In fact, Butler has more home runs (3) than stolen bases (2).
“That is pretty strange,” Butler said. “But I think it’s mostly circumstantial. We’ve gotten out to a lot of big leads, so I’m less likely to steal then.”
Michigan coach Rich Maloney couldn’t be any more pleased with Butler’s recent play.
“Matty is just an ultimate gamer,” Maloney said. “The kid gets more out of his ability than anybody I know. Who doesn’t love guys like that — he’s the heart and soul of our club.”
Richard Spells Relief: Throwing mid-90 MPH fastballs is like riding a bike — you never forget how.
In Friday’s home opener, Michigan sophomore Clayton Richard pitched three scoreless innings of relief, allowing zero hits and fanning three. Last season’s backup quarterback for the football team was pretty much unhittable in his fourth appearance of the season.
Richard, who hadn’t thrown a fastball since his senior year of high school, is making a smooth adjustment to a new role in an old sport.
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment (coming out of the bullpen),” Richard said. “But it’s something that doesn’t take too long to get used to. With Maloney and our other assistant coaches, it’s been real easy to make the adjustment.”
Most people remember Richard as an Elite-11, blue-chip gunslinger who committed to the Michigan football program. But Richard was also a two-time all-state pitcher and was named Indiana’s “Mr. Baseball” in 2003.
“It feels great to be out (on the baseball field),” Richard said. “I’m finally getting back to strength, and the coaches have done a lot of work to help. I’m feeling really comfortable with everything right now.”
Richard has surrendered just one hit in seven innings of work this season.
Sonic Bohm: It took him eight at bats to figure it out, but when he did, oh boy, it was big. With two outs, two aboard and a 3-2 count, Michigan senior Kyle Bohm drilled a two-run double to even the game at four runs apiece.
A passed ball and wild pitch later, Bohm crossed the plate for the game-winning run.
Bohm’s big knock came in the second game of the home-opening series against Oakland University — a game the Wolverines won 5-4.
“(Oakland pitcher Paul Phillips) had struck me out earlier, so I was looking for the ball to come up and away,” Bohm said. “I got a pretty good piece of it.”
The senior co-captain also came up big in Game two of Saturday’s doubleheader. In the third inning, Bohm roped a two-run, two-out single to left field, tying the game at two runs. The Wolverines went on to win that game, 8-2.
After starting the weekend 0-for-7, Bohm ended the series batting 4-for-8 with six RBI and two doubles.
“I wasn’t feeling all that great the first two games — they made some good pitches at me,” Bohm said. “I just didn’t have it.”
It was the second weekend in a row that Bohm opened the series 0-for-5. The Stevens Point, Wisc. native was looking to remedy his chronic slow starts before the Big Ten season get under way.
“I’m just going to try to be a little more aggressive and not fall behind on the counts,” Bohm said. “When you get going early, it makes things easier.”
Despite his streakiness, Bohm is batting .386 with a team-best 27 RBI through the first 18 games.
Cloud Nine: Michigan has won nine straight, marking the longest winning streak since 1997 when the Wolverines captured the Big Ten Championship.
This weekend’s sweep was the second straight of the year. The last time Michigan served up two straight was in 1988.
Its 15-3 start is the best since the 1985 team, which included Barry Larkin and Hal Morris.