Anyone who has seen the movie “Moneyball” knows the importance of on-base percentage.
The absence of senior outfielder and leadoff hitter Patrick Biondi hurt the Michigan baseball team as it went 1-2 at the Chanticleer Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. over the weekend. The Michigan offense was stagnant all weekend with Biondi’s team-leading .493 on-base percentage sidelined with a sprained thumb. It scored only nine runs over the weekend.
Not only did the offense miss Biondi, but it also missed injured sophomore catcher Kevin White, who didn’t play in the last two games of the weekend after sustaining an injury Friday night. The lack of run production combined with average pitching prevented the Wolverines from earning the sweep they wanted, as they dropped two games to Coastal Carolina (9-10) before defeating Akron (2-16) on Sunday.
“We’ve got to be able to overcome a couple of injuries,” Bakich said. “We’re certainly not going to make excuses for that.”
On Friday, Michigan fell to the Chanticleers, 8-4, after blowing a 3-0 first-inning lead. Coastal Carolina made a bevy of mistakes in the inning including three errors, three wild pitches, two walks and one hit batter, allowing the Wolverines to score three runs while only recording one hit.
“That game was right where we wanted it to be, and we let them back in after they gifted us a few runs,” Bakich said.
Though it ended up committing five errors in the game, Coastal Carolina used two big innings to recover and break the game open. The Chanticleers knocked around Michigan’s pitching, as they recorded 12 hits and capitalized on the six free passes and one hit-by-pitch.
Saturday’s game had a very different feel, though, as Coastal Carolina shut down the Michigan offense and built a 6-0 lead, before the Wolverines managed to score twice in the ninth inning. After two consecutive scoreless starts, freshman pitcher Evan Hill struggled, allowing five earned runs in just 4.1 innings.
“No starting pitcher is going to sustain scoreless outings,” Bakich said. “He hadn’t given up an earned run in two starts prior to this one, so that’s just baseball.”
Biondi’s absence was especially felt on Saturday, particularly when his replacement in the leadoff spot, junior outfielder Michael O’Neill, went 0-for-5. The next four batters in the Michigan lineup went 4-for-17 in the game with only one RBI after freshman second baseman Jacob Cronenworth singled in the final run of the game in the ninth.
“We just came out soft in the first two games and really didn’t play to our potential,” Cronenworth said.
On Sunday, the Wolverines failed to pull away from a Zips team that has had few good games this season. Michigan was able to score two runs in the second inning without getting a hit after Akron pitcher Pat Dyer hit two batters, walked another and committed an error in the field.
Senior pitcher Ben Ballantine, the Wolverines’ starter, grinded through 4.1 innings, allowing two earned runs while striking out five batters and walking two. With the game close, the Michigan bullpen came in and shut down Akron, allowing just three runners to reach base in 4.2 innings. The offense continued to struggle for the Wolverines until freshman shortstop Travis Maezes singled in sophomore outfielder Zach Zott to give Michigan the 3-2 lead, which it held for the remainder of the game.
But the victory on Sunday didn’t make Bakich feel much better about his team’s performance this weekend.
“The losing part is frustrating,” Bakich said. “When we don’t play to our potential, that’s really frustrating. I’m not happy with today’s win because we didn’t play well today. We didn’t play to our potential in any of the three games.”