Spectators at the Michigan baseball team’s home opener against Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne today may be surprised and somewhat confused when they see the defensive scheme the Wolverines have instituted.

Michigan’s infield has been slightly modified from last year. Sophomore John Lorenz and senior Mike Dufek will still be at third base and first base respectively. However, with the graduation of former captain Kevin Cislo and the introduction of freshman Derek Dennis, that midfield will be adjusted. Dennis will be situated at shortstop as redshirt junior Anthony Toth will shift to second.

Michigan coach Rich Maloney has started the same four infielders for all of the Wolverines’ 18 games so far and he doesn’t intend to change the blueprint any time soon.

Third base improvement: At third base, Michigan will start Lorenz, who started in 39 games last season. Lorenz’s production at the plate has been sound so far.

Being a third baseman, Lorenz’s biggest problem last year was his range in the field. While it is a difficult throw from third base to first base, Lorenz’s quick release was an area he needed to work on.

“For John, he just has to make better throws,” Dufek said after practice on Tuesday. “And he has gotten a whole lot better at that since freshman season.”

With five errors, Lorenz is tied with Dennis for the most errors on the team.

“The less errors we make, the less runs the other team is going to score,” Lorenz said. “We need to make less errors. I’ve improved my range and that should be a start to fixing the problem.”

Enter the freshman star: Dennis will be at shortstop for most of this season. While he has started in all 18 games so far, Dennis needs to get comfortable especially since he is a freshmen who is getting his first taste of Division I baseball while playing such a significant position.

“The thing about shortstop is having to make a long throw makes a huge difference,” Toth said. “Sometimes it doesn’t give you time to set your feet and make an accurate throw.”

Dennis was drafted in the 10th round by Tampa Bay in the 2009 MLB draft but instead chose to play at Michigan. As a major league prospect, he was expected to produce quickly and consistently.

“Even though he got drafted out of high school this is still a big jump for him,” Toth said. “But he is really getting comfortable. He hit three home runs, his average is starting to jump up, and his strikeouts are cutting down. And in the field he is making quicker decisions.”

Roundin’ the bases: Last year, as mentioned, Toth spent most of his time at shortstop. But with Dennis coming in, adjustments had to be made and Toth moved to second base.

The switch is not too uncommon for middle infielders, and Toth’s changeover has been anything but cumbersome.

“It’s not an easy position, but it was an easy transition for me,” Toth said. “As a middle infielder, you have to be able to play both short and second. So, for me to move is not a big deal. In fact, I really enjoy it.”

His range has naturally improved because he gets to throw a shorter distance and has more time to make his throw since he is closer to first.

“There is more time for me to worry about the bases,” Toth said. “That’s the only difference. It is more of a technique position than shortstop. Shortstop lets pure athleticism take over.”

Big man on campus: Dufek will be at first base the entire season and he’s led the infielders in RBIs and hits, with 20 and 24 respectively. But it’s his leadership that could be the most important.

“Coming into the fall we knew Dufek was going to be a great leader,” Toth said. “We look at him to always make big plays for us. He picks us up when were down. Everything we have asked the captains to do they have done.”

Aside from his offensive production, Dufek has been one of the most consistent fielders. In 55 games last season, Dufek recorded just four errors. This season he has already tallied half that but as the season comes along, so should consistency.

“Mike has improved so much,” Maloney said. “When you’re a captain and the players picked you, much is expected. He hasn’t hit a home run this year, even after hitting 17 last year. But he has not let that get him down. That really shows his maturity. That shows real leaderships skills.”

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