Each time the Michigan baseball team earned a big win this season, it failed to follow it up with a winning streak. The Wolverines’ inability to get into a rhythm this year can be attributed to these losses that followed what otherwise could have been momentum-changing wins.

But Michigan hopes to change its luck this week when it hosts two Mid-American Conference opponents: Bowling Green and Toledo.

The Wolverines (2-4 Big Ten, 8-21 overall) are coming off a 6-5 come-from-behind victory over Purdue on Sunday. The Boilermakers led 5-1 for the majority of the game, but Michigan scored four runs in the eighth inning before grabbing the lead in the 10th with redshirt junior Garrett Stephens’s solo home run. Freshman Alex Lakatos staved off Purdue’s rally to lock down Michigan’s first win in more than a week.

Michigan coach Rich Maloney will look to carry the momentum from the game into Ray Fisher Stadium.

“We’re feeling a lot better about ourselves,” Maloney said after Sunday’s win. “If we would have lost those three games, that would have been really hard. But what an opportunity. We’ve got to get some momentum. We’ve never had any the whole year, and it sure would be nice to win a couple ballgames.”

On Tuesday, Michigan will be squaring off against the Falcons (5-4 MAC, 11-16 overall), who have lost six of their last eight games. They are led by shortstop Jon Berti, who is hitting .385 this season with 11 stolen bases, and catcher Ryan Schlater, whose four home runs nearly match the number of home runs the entire Michigan team has.

Meanwhile, Toledo (7-2, 16-15) is riding a nine-game winning streak and leads the MAC Western Division. The Rockets’ top hitter is center fielder Ben Hammer, who is batting .360 with 13 RBI.

Maloney said sophomore Ben Ballantine will likely start on Tuesday, but will not throw many innings because he will be needed for the weekend series. Freshman Jake Engels is expected to take the mound on Wednesday.

“Anytime you can knock off Michigan, it’s huge for MAC teams,” said Maloney, who coached Ball State for seven seasons. “They’re going to come in here and they’re going to have a good chance of beating us and we’re going to have to play well to win.”

Michigan will be looking to increase its production at the plate. The Wolverines crossed the five-run threshold for the first time in nearly a month on Sunday. Sophomore center fielder Patrick Biondi had the big bat in West Lafayette, going 7-for-13 in the series with five stolen bases.

Biondi said he is starting to feel more comfortable at the plate. Lakatos, who was recently moved into the lineup for his offense, had recorded a hit in six straight games before Sunday.

“I’m hopeful that our bats will carry into this week and hopefully find a way to win and get some more confidence,” Maloney said.

Though the two wins would have negligible significance since they are not conference games, they could make all the difference in jump-starting Michigan’s performance in the Big Ten season.

Michigan is in a group of four teams who are 2-4 and a game out of the sixth spot — the final qualifying seed for the Big Ten Tournament. And in the next three weekends, the Wolverines will be squaring off against Illinois, Iowa and Ohio State, who are all within a game of Michigan.

“That nine-game stretch has a good chance of determining the fate of our season,” Maloney said. “Hopefully, we’ll play better this week and carry it over to the conference series with Illinois. Hopefully, we keep ourselves in the middle of the pack so we have a chance to make a playoff push.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.