In the epic battle of Michigan baseball versus Michigan weather, the weather will invariably win. So what do the Wolverines resort to when Mother Nature gets the best of them?
Wiffle ball homerun derby, of course.
Inclement weather and snow on the field at the Fish cancelled yesterday’s game against Detroit Mercy and pushed practice inside Oosterbaan Field House, the perfect setting for a round of homerun derby after a workout.
“Every once in a while you need to loosen things up around here,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “We felt like our team has been working real hard.
“I just wanted to bring back the fact that it’s a privilege to play the game and bring back the days of how much fun it was when you played wiffle ball.”
Any type of game for Michigan is advantageous at this point in time. The Wolverines were only able to play two games out of their scheduled four-game series against Minnesota last weekend. While the Wolverines dropped both of those games, 9-3 and 8-7, they felt the weekend record might have shown a different story had they gotten the chance to play those extra two games.
“We had them the second game,” fifth-year senior Mike Sokol said. “We made a few crucial mistakes and basically we beat ourselves. I think we’ll be alright.”
Sokol has been hitting more than just wiffle balls during this young conference season. He leads the Big Ten in hitting with a .526 average through six conference games.
“It’s been going pretty well,” Sokol said. “I’ve felt pretty good and am seeing the ball well. You just try and stay consistent.”
The entire team will get its chance to stay on the hitting track Sokol has found today. Local NAIA school Concordia (9-25) was added to the schedule after yesterday’s game could not be played.
The game should also give the young pitching staff some quality action. Sophomore Matt Collins (1-1) is scheduled to start, and Maloney also expects freshman Jeff Niemiec to pick up some much needed innings. Niemiec has only appeared once this year, carrying a 54.00 ERA after going just 0.1 inning against Eastern Michigan.
Today’s game should give the pitching staff a chance to knock down its respective ERA, while the hitters see if they can learn anything from their wiffle ball swing.
“It’s a different swing,” Sokol said. “You have to kind of flick at the ball. You can’t swing too hard or you’ll never hit it.”
While the wiffle may have baffled a few of the Wolverines, Maloney has had his share of wiffle practice with kids of his own.
“As soon as my kids are out of school, I’m going to start showing these guys how to hit,” Maloney said.