Erik Bakich’s young son Colt rushed onto the infield grass and to his father’s side, tugging on the first-year Michigan baseball coach’s pant leg. Bakich looked down, smiled and spun Colt around. Even though Michigan beat the Ontario Blue Jays 8-5 in Bakich’s first game in Ann Arbor, it was hard for him to maintain his festive mood. Bakich wasn’t satisfied.
During the 14-inning exhibition on Tuesday, the Wolverines made seven errors and had four wild pitches. The Blue Jays, an under-18 team that showcases Canada’s top young baseball talent, scored two of their five runs off of the mistakes, helping them control a lead until the bottom of the eighth inning. In the third inning, with a runner on second base, a throwing error by freshman second baseman Jacob Cronenworth brought in Ontario’s first run.
In the fourth inning, the left side of the infield faltered. Freshmen third baseman Travis Maezes made a throwing error on a softly hit ground ball. The next hitter dribbled a potential double-play ball to shortstop, where it snuck through the legs of sophomore Dylan Delaney. Luckily for the Wolverines, they escaped the inning without giving up a run.
In the fifth inning it was more of the same. A wild pitch and a throwing error were charged to junior right-hander Alex Lakatos. Two more errors ocured in the top of the 10th inning, one on a throw by junior pitcher Logan McAnallen, and another on a dropped line drive by sophomore second baseman Eric Jacobson.
The sloppiness was a common theme throughout the game. The Blue Jays capitalized on Michigan’s litany of mistakes, scoring two of their five runs on wild pitches.
“We obviously have a lot of things to work on and a long way to go,” Bakich said. “It gave us a good idea of things to focus on. It was tentativeness, and you could sense it in batting practice because it’s our first game. Guys are nervous, guys are anxious. They didn’t look comfortable or confident. I could get that feel just by their body language.”
Senior center fielder Patrick Biondi echoed Bakich’s assessment, saying that the Wolverines were nervous and “played really tight.”
“In normal practices we have been playing really clean baseball. I think you can see it in some of the young guys’ eyes, and even the veterans, that we weren’t relaxed and we weren’t as confident as we should be. It’s just a matter of getting those guys to come out with a little more swagger and confidence.”
Despite their defensive woes, the Wolverines were also able to capitalize on the Blue Jays’ mistakes, turning Ontario’s three errors and four wild pitches into four runs of their own, resulting in four of Michigan’s eight runs. The Wolverines said they’ll know that they will need to clean up their game, as the Blue Jays are well below the average level of a Big Ten team.
The veterans and the newcomers have a sense of optimism about the team and its future. Bakich’s methods and style have meshed well with the Wolverines, by all accounts. Bakich is focused not only on this teams success but on the program’s future.
“The players are buying into the enthusiasm and the style that we bring,” Bakich concluded. “Our program will have an identity, we don’t have an identity right now, but I think all great organizations know exactly what they stand for.”