With the end of the season less than a week away, the Michigan baseball team has nothing to lose.

The Wolverines knew they were out of the hunt for a Big Ten title after being swept by Indiana in late April. But it seems like they’re playing better with the monkey off their backs.

It was almost expected that Michigan would be on a five-game losing streak after a week’s worth of play against a pair of nationally ranked teams — Coastal Carolina and Purdue.

But this is not the case.

Bouncing back from a troublesome season, the Wolverines split the series against the Chanticleers and avoided a sweep by the Boilermakers on Sunday.

Today, Michigan (7-14 Big Ten, 21-31 overall) enters its last nonconference matchup against Western Michigan (13-10 MAC, 23-25) before capping off the season against Nebraska this weekend.

Though the Wolverines delivered an uplifting win against Purdue, they posted an unimpressive 1-4 record against Mid-American Conference teams this year. And the Broncos carry momentum with two consecutive series sweeps.

Starting today’s contest from the mound is junior right-hander Kyle Clark with a 6.44 ERA, but freshman right-hander Matt Ogden is almost guaranteed to come into relief at some point during the game.

“Those are two phenomenal pitchers,” said junior right-hander Ben Ballantine. “We’ve seen great things out of both of them.”

The pitching duo combined in Michigan’s two-game split against Coastal Carolina. Clark hurled 2.2 innings, giving up two earned runs and a pair of walks en route to Tuesday’s 6-1 loss.

But Ogden earned the lone win in 5 scoreless innings, giving up only one hit to the Chanticleers and proving himself capable of fulfilling a new role.

Ogden, who has yet to start a game, is credited with a triplet of saves in his 18 appearances. He records a .186 opposing-batters average and tallied 24 strikeouts in his rookie campaign.

“He has such a good arm,” said Michigan coach Rich Maloney. “The great thing is in his freshman year, he’s been able to experience … a lot of pressure situations and I think that holds well for his future.”

Opposite of Clark and Ogden will be five Broncos at the plate bating above .300, led by first baseman Troy Forton with a .378 average and .430 on-base percentage. Not far behind, Western Michigan third baseman Ryan McMillan is coming off a .500 weekend with five RBIs against Northern Illinois.

In their last meeting, the Wolverines snatched a 7-4 win in five innings due to rain, but McMillan went 2-for-3 with two runs and four RBIs.

Offensively, the Broncos appear to be somewhat of a threat, but if Michigan can just stay relaxed in the final road game, it will be able to use the recent success to feed their performance.

“I’m sure with the way everyone’s feeling right now … we’ll be ready to play,” Ballantine said.

Though the hit production has been sporadic all season, junior center fielder Patrick Biondi has notched hits in 16 of the last 19 outings and remained fairly consistent through the stretch of the Big Ten schedule. He needs just three more stolen bases in the final week of play to tie the all time list at 90 with Eric Rose (2004-07).

“Hopefully, we’ll play a game … where we pitch well and play good defense,” Biondi said. “Just go out and play as hard as we can.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.