Michigan baseball coach Rich Maloney left practice early on Wednesday to start planning for next year. While he and assistant coach Matt Husted took a short recruiting field trip, the Wolverines were left in Ray Fisher Stadium to keep preparing for this season.

The team with a 9-11 record needed guidance on the field. So who was out there coaching?

Before the season started, Maloney brought variety to his staff. He recalled pitching coach Steve Merriman to the program and brought in long-time friend Wayne Welton to help recover and rebuild from last season’s 17-37 finish.

On Wednesday, Welton, the volunteer coach, stood at home plate with the bat gripped between his hands. Each pitcher stepped onto the mound and hurled it into the catcher’s mitt. Simultaneously, Welton would lightly toss a ball into fair territory to simulate a bunt.

It was freshman right-hander Matt Ogden’s turn to practice pitching in bunt situations, but he wasn’t throwing the strikes that Merriman wanted to see.

“Go to the bullpen until you can throw 15 in a row!” Merriman yelled.

Ogden did as he was told, and Merriman explained the seemingly harsh reaction.

“That was a moment,” Merriman said. “It’s about a situation, and he understands, (Ogden) gets it. … Every day presents something different for you to try to teach and you have to adapt to whatever that situation shows you. You have to seize the moment.”

Maloney appreciates that style. He classifies Merriman and himself as Type-A personalities, but he recognizes that Welton and Husted balance the staff with a “less intense perspective.”

Welton spent 33 years at Chelsea High School in Michigan as the baseball coach — 23 of those years as the athletic director — and shortly after retirement, he was ready to get back into the game.

Building on their 10-year relationship, Maloney asked Welton to share his wealth of knowledge with the team. And everyone has responded to the experience he brings to the table, especially the starting outfielders — freshman Will Drake, sophomore Michael O’Neill and junior Patrick Biondi.

The respect is mutual. And even though Welton was hesitant to use the cliché, he admitted that his new role with the Wolverines is “a dream come true.”

Showing his contrast in on-field character, Merriman stepped in and shared his pitching philosophy.

“You wrestle a little bit and you make your younger sibling kiss the carpet,” Merriman said. “That’s what happens in an at-bat — you’re either going to give in and let the hitter beat you and make you kiss the carpet, or you’re going to do that to every single (batter) that comes up.”

Merriman has the attitude that Maloney considers a “demand for excellence,” and he hopes it’ll rub off on the bullpen.

He previously worked for the Wolverines for single-season stints in 1995 and 2002, and Merriman returned this year with a bank of useful experience.

After coaching a handful of different college teams, he joined the Detroit Tigers in 1996 and found himself warming up the bullpen, watching film and doing the odd jobs. But Merriman isn’t known to stay in one place for too long.

It was time for another change. Merriman was sent to scout school, recommended by the Colorado Rockies, and he passed with flying colors. Then, after working with the New York Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks and the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau, he returned to Michigan for his “junior year.”

“Hopefully, they’ll let me graduate,” Merriman said with a laugh.

Merriman has a year-by-year pitching theory that seems applicable to the Wolverines.

Freshmen start to get comfortable in the environment and toss aside old habits on the mound. It’s the year of reformation and adjustment.

Sophomores learn how to manage innings and control “damage,” where they no longer have to think about the fundamentals.

The string of starting pitchers — senior right-hander Brandon Sinnery, redshirt junior left-hander Bobby Brosnahan and junior right-hander Ben Ballantine — had completed the first two cycles and were ready to move forward in their development when Merriman arrived.

They had simple deliveries and solid mechanics, but they lacked in confidence.

“(It’s) the mind process — how they think about themselves,” Merriman said. “Do they understand who they are as a pitcher and what they’re capable of?”

The numerical improvement shows that Merriman has instilled the right mentality in the bullpen. Ballantine ranks fifth in the Big Ten with a 1.87 ERA and has allowed just seven earned runs in 33.2 innings of work — last season, he recorded a 4.91 ERA and gave up 26 earned runs.

“He doesn’t tell you you’re doing good if you’re not,” Ballantine said. “If you make a bad pitch or an okay pitch, he’s not going to tell you it was great.”

With the mix of Welton’s extended high-school experience and Merriman’s professional résumé, the Wolverines have found balance. The common ground between them is their approach to the mental game. Both coaches have been consistently working with the team to build up its self-assurance — something that may be hard to do with a losing record.

But Welton reminds them, “Baseball is such a game of challenge. Good hitters fail seven out of 10 times.”

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