After Michigan State completed its sweep over Michigan, fifth-year senior second baseman Anthony Toth, the team’s captain, said the Wolverines had hit rock bottom.
Whether Sunday was in fact rock bottom is yet to be seen, but getting back to its winning ways on Wednesday at Eastern Michigan (15-9) will certainly help to pick Michigan off the ground.
The Wolverines (6-15 overall) have reason to travel to Ypsilanti with some confidence — something they haven’t claimed very often this season. Just 10 days ago, Michigan defeated the host Eagles, 5-2, en route to a perfect Oestrike Classic at Oestrike Stadium.
“Certainly anytime you’ve played someone and won, it’s always a good thing,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “The flipside of it, like any day for us, it’s not so much who we’re playing as much as we’ve got to play good baseball. So, we’ve got to do what we’re supposed to do, and that’s pretty much how I’ve always coached.”
In the previous outing, the Wolverines capitalized from a quality start from sophomore Kyle Clark, who baffled the Eagles for 7.1 innings of one-run ball.
But on Wednesday, Maloney plans to use a staff day — giving different pitchers the chance to pitch small portions of the game. Redshirt freshman Logan McAnallen will make his first career start. The lefty has pitched in six games this year, with an ERA of 1.59 in 5.2 innings.
Normally the designated hitter, junior Coley Crank will make his first start at catcher this year. Crank, who began the season in a major slump, seemed to have a break out day on Sunday with four hits — including a pinch-hit home run.
Because Michigan has struggled mightily at the plate, Maloney wants production from the catching position. Crank will be catching because the previous catchers — redshirt freshmen John DiLaura and Zach Johnson and freshman Cole Martin — are all hitting below .190.
Freshman Brett Winger will again DH after he went 1-8 on Sunday in the doubleheader, but came through with a double and a run in his third career plate appearance.
Maloney originally planned to redshirt Winger but had little choice with the stagnancy of the offense.
“He has some bat speed, so I thought we’d give him a chance,” Maloney said. “I thought he had some good at-bats. He had a nice double.”
The game against Eastern Michigan is the Wolverines’ last chance at a tune-up before conference play begins against Indiana this Friday (last weekend’s series with Michigan State didn’t officially count towards the Big Ten standings).
After a porous start to the season — including last weekend’s sweep at the hands of the Spartans and a long post-game team meeting, in which the captains called out the team’s effort — Michigan begins anew with a 0-0 Big Ten record.
“We had a great meeting before practice,” Maloney said. “Everybody’s pulling together, playing hard and looking forward to competing in the Big Ten.
“I think it’s imperative that, you know, you want to win every game that you play to continue building confidence. I think it would be really important (to beat the Eagles); it would be a really good thing. So we’re going to go back at it tomorrow. We’re going to compete as hard as we can, and try to get better tomorrow.”