“Here it is,” first-year Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney said. “Here’s the moment.”
For the Michigan baseball team, the Big Ten season will begin today in Iowa City. Coming off an exciting win against Central Michigan, the Wolverines’ (8-9) adrenaline is pumping for their series against Iowa (6-6).
“The guys are excited to get into conference play,” Maloney said. “We’ve geared ourselves to be ready for this moment by using the first 17 games to really find ourselves. We thought that the first 17 games would be kind of a barometer to see where we stand.”
The Wolverines will see exactly where they are right now against a challenging opponent in Iowa starting today through Sunday.
The Hawkeyes have won five of their last seven games and are on a roll. But the Wolverines lead the all-time series against Iowa (80-35) and were the winners of three-of-four games in Ann Arbor last year.
“Playing in (Iowa’s) ballpark is going to be difficult,” Maloney said. “However, on the same token, we fully expect to go down there and play well. We’ve played a pretty solid schedule up to this point, and we are excited to go into these games.”
Leaving all history aside, a confident Michigan ball club believes it has a chance to sweep the Hawkeyes.
“I can bet that when Iowa saw Michigan on its schedule, it put us as a series sweep, and we obviously said the same thing,” Maloney said. “Winning the series is the most important thing going into conference weekends. But the irony is that both teams are in that same mode. That’s the great thing about baseball, something is going to have to give.”
Michigan’s enthusiasm comes from its 15-6 triumph over Central Michigan.
Both senior third baseman Brock Koman and redshirt freshman catcher Jeff Kunkel gathered three hits and drove in three runs in the opening game at the Fish.
“Koman is one of the best hitters I have ever coached, and I have coached some pretty good ones,” Maloney said. “Koman had an outstanding game and hit all five balls hard. He could have easily gone five-for-five. If there’s a better hitter in our league, then I hope we don’t have to face him.”
Kunkel was a critical replacement for the typical starting junior catcher Jake Fox, who felt ill before the game against Central Michigan.
“Kunkel came in and gave us a big lift,” Maloney said. “Fox was sick, so he wasn’t in the game. But, it worked out well for us. Kunkel did a wonderful job by hitting a triple, and he was stellar throughout the game.”