Michigan freshman outfielder Mike Schmidt launched his first career homerun en route to an 11-4 non-conference victory for the Wolverines yesterday over Concordia.
“It feels pretty good,” Schmidt said. “It was a hit-and-run, and I saw the curveball coming. I kind of felt the pressure, and it was a good bender. I just had to jump on it.”
The Wolverines (3-3 Big Ten, 13-12 overall) beat Concordia (9-25), a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics team from Ann Arbor, at the Fish. However, the Cardinals continued to add pressure on the Wolverines throughout the course of the game.
“No, that’s baseball,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said in response to being surprised with Concordia’s play. “It is hard knowing that we have a big weekend coming up, and we knew that today would be a tough day to focus. I’m not surprised (they played tough) because the great thing about baseball is that any team can win on any game. Especially when you’re playing some different guys, anything could happen. (Concordia) played hard and played well. We didn’t play extremely well.”
Michigan’s defensive play was not up to par with five crucial errors on the day.
“There is no doubt that we’re not playing defense the way defense should be played,” Maloney said. “We knew that was a weakness in the past, and we have been working really hard on it. We’ve played pretty good defense for a period of time. We just got to keep working on it, and that’s all we can do.”
Despite Michigan’s inefficient defense, sophomore pitcher Matt Collins pitched a gem. Collins allowed just one earned run on three hits in his 6.2 innings worth of work.
“(Collins) is one of the reasons why we wanted to play today,” Maloney said. “I wanted to get Collins back out there. He started struggling this year, but he has really good stuff. If it ever comes together for him, he’ll become a really good pitcher.”
Collins (2-1) previously struggled in his last two outings. However, his curveball consistently broke over the plate for strikes.
Also contributing to Michigan’s victory were senior first baseman Mike Sokol, junior outfielder Brandon Roberts, and Schmidt.
“Sokol has been on fire,” Maloney said. “He is hitting really well, and he’s a leader on our team. Furthermore, it’s good to see Brandon swing the bat really well. Also, it’s great to see Schmidt hit his first collegiate homerun, which is really nice on a hit-and-run.”
Sokol is the Big Ten leader in batting average (.526) and went 2-for-4 with two RBI against Concordia. Roberts scored once and had two RBI while hitting 1-for-3 on the day.
Schmidt did not just hit his first homerun of his career; he also stole two bases for the Wolverines.
“For next year, (Schmidt) will be a guy that will play a lot,” Maloney said. “If you just watch him, you could see that the guy can run and hit. Right now, we don’t have that great deal of speed. So it is kind of a tough thing, which you will see improve in the future.”
Knowing that the Wolverines will focus more on speed in the upcoming years, Schmidt’s stolen bases are an excellent sign for Michigan’s future.
“It will be a good move to have a fast outfield,” Schmidt said. “We hope to get some more stolen bases on the year.”
This weekend, Michigan will host Illinois (3-5 Big Ten, 15-10 overall).
“Illinois is a solid program, and we have to play well to win,” Maloney said. “We are ready as a team. We are playing a veteran lineup, and they know that this is an important series. They’re 3-5, and we’re 3-3, and something has to give. If we want to make the playoffs, we got to start separating us.”