All season long, the Michigan baseball team has found momentum and quickly squandered it.
On Wednesday, the Wolverines will not only be fighting to carry their momentum into a big weekend series with Iowa, they’ll be in a tussle for the Washtenaw County Championship.
After splitting a pair of games against Michigan in Ypsilanti, Mich. in March, the Eagles will make the short trek to Ann Arbor tomorrow to contend for crosstown bragging rights.
Despite a dismal start to the 2011 season, the young Michigan (4-5 Big Ten, 11-23 overall) squad hasn’t stopped fighting — something that’s impressed its coach.
“The weight that’s been on all of us, the kids, to keep battling, it said a lot about our team,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “We haven’t quit by (any) means.”
The Wolverines will again use a pitch-by-committee day on the mound, allowing a couple of pitchers the chance to pitch a few innings.
Maloney and Michigan have turned to a younger lineup and it’s seemed to spark the Wolverines. One particular upstart rookie is freshman Brett Winger, who has taken over first base duties in place of redshirt junior Garrett Stephens.
Winger came up with several solid defensive plays against Illinois, and his single in the seventh inning initiated Michigan’s three-run rally.
“Coach (Maloney), actually before the game gave us a speech and said that the freshman class was looking promising,” freshman rightfielder Michael O’Neill said. “And he’s been giving some guys some opportunities. Brett Winger played unreal (against the Fighting Illini).
“It just represents our class.”
The Eagles (6-6 MAC, 20-15) and the Wolverines first met a month ago in the Oestrike Classic. Michigan’s pitchers allowed just five hits in a 5-2 victory.
But in the teams’ most recent meeting, nearly three weeks ago, Eastern Michigan pounded Michigan, 8-2, in the midst of Michigan’s five-game losing streak. The Wolverines jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but their bats went quiet and their pitchers couldn’t sustain the lead.
But when the Wolverines take the field in Ray Fisher Stadium, they’ll carry the momentum of a series win over Illinois last weekend.
“It’s huge,” Biondi said of being on an upswing. “I think we talked last week about the momentum after that Purdue game, and we used it for one game against Bowling Green and then we’re kind of flat the next day. So I think this team’s philosophy from here on out is just going to be try to have fun and to play the game as hard as we can.”