The Michigan baseball team’s John Lorenz has learned the meaning of “hard work pays off.”

After the 2011 team finished last in the Big Ten, the senior third baseman knew something needed to change. It seems as though Lorenz subconsciously knew the significance of the team’s motto — “Flip It” — even before it became official.

So Lorenz took matters into his own hands and focused on things he knew he could control, starting with his diet. After meeting with a nutritionist, Lorenz dropped 18 pounds, and Michigan coach Rich Maloney noticed his improved athleticism.

“He made a commitment to taking care of himself,” Maloney said. “He’s worked real hard to put himself in position to be successful.”

Lorenz said he “was on a mission,” and that led him to the southwest deserts of Arizona. He played for the Sidewinders of the Arizona Collegiate Wood-Bat league, where he remembered how to win.

The Sidewinders ended their regular summer season at the top of the league standings with a 22-7 record. And there’s almost always a mutual relationship between the success of Lorenz and the success of his team.

In 2010, the Wolverines finished the season ranked second in the Big Ten — Lorenz logged a solid .315 batting average. But last year, the statistics fell for both him and Michigan.

During the frustrating 2011 campaign, he posted career lows with a .224 batting average and .263 on-base percentage. But he didn’t stand alone — the team needed to recharge.

“No one likes to lose,” Lorenz said. “After the last season and how disappointing it was, I knew I had to correct a lot of things.”

Under the Arizona sun, he made those adjustments and brought them back to Michigan. Within the first three games of this season, he has already recorded a home run and six RBIs.

In the first weekend of play, after a close loss to Pittsburgh and narrow win over Seton Hall, Lorenz drove in a three-run home run against West Virginia in the first inning. Maloney was thoroughly pleased with that performance, calling it “good fundamental baseball.”

But Lorenz wasn’t named one of Michigan’s four captains because of his performance on the field.

“He earned the respect of his teammates and coaches,” Maloney said. “We were able to celebrate the fact that he made such a great commitment.”

Lorenz feels honored, but also responsible for setting an example. He’s careful to be consistently on point in the classroom, during practice and especially on the field.

He knows how to work hard, but play even harder when at bat or fielding from third base. He will help lead his team in the 10-day spring break excursion, starting with this weekend’s series against Iona. It will be the Wolverines’ first matchup with the Gaels in history, and Michigan hopes to use its momentum to claim bragging rights.

Iona currently posts a 1-2 record; the Wolverines the inverse. But who is Michigan really going up against?

“I always look at it this way … it’s us against Michigan,” Maloney said. “It’s really a battle within ourselves.”

So far, the Wolverines have done a good job of competing with the best. After the first weekend of play, Michigan leads the Big Ten with 10 doubles, .476 slugging percent, eight stolen bases and 21 walks.

The team will take those numbers and continue to build off them, first against Iona and then on Wednesday when it faces Florida Gulf Coast. Michigan hopes to avenge last year’s 6-4 loss against the Eagles, while continuing to trump its own level of play.

“Every win matters,” Lorenz said. “Every loss matters.”

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