Senior pitcher Alan Oaks has often lived up to the role of “the man.”

In 2007, during his freshman year at Michigan, Oaks was “the man” who had the pinch-hit, walk-off home run against College Player of the Year David Price to win the Nashville Regional. A week later, Price was the No. 1 pick in the MLB draft to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

But, the coaches have taken Oaks off the base and created a new identity for him on the mound. He is once again, “the man” — the Friday-night pitcher. The ace.

“He’s going to be a tough guy for any team to beat,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “And that’s the kind of guy that is a Friday-night pitcher. This is a tremendous accomplishment for Alan. It was his goal to be the Friday-night pitcher and with his limited experience, to say that he’s the guy, shows a lot about his work ethic and his drive to be the best.”

Oaks was recruited to Michigan as the No. 1 prep player in Michigan as a two-way player. His first preference was to hit, so Maloney gave him the opportunity. Although Oaks had a powerful swing, big moments came inconsistently for him.

So last season, when the Wolverines were struggling on the mound, Maloney and Michigan assistant coach Bob Keller took a chance on Oaks and his golden arm, putting him in the game to pitch.

“Thankfully we did,” Maloney said. “From that point on, we felt like for him to play at the next level, knowing that his swing was a little bit long, that his best chance was probably going to be on the bump. So we made that move and to Alan’s credit he has excelled there in a short period of time.”

You could say that he has handled the transition from an outfield position player to ace pitcher about as well as he handles the ball on the mound. To prepare in the offseason Oaks, who previously made a total of 10 appearances at the mound in his freshman and junior season, pitched in the Florida collegiate league, did two bullpens a week, and focused on endurance and strength over quickness and agility.

Besides working on the physical aspects of the game, Oaks has also taken on a new, less conventional approach to improve his pitching.

“A recent tradition started this year,” Oaks said. “At the first game, the umpire told me to take off my Livestrong wristband and I pitched really well that game. And the next two weeks he told me to do it again. But, the following week he didn’t ask me to remove it, so I said, ‘Hey, can you tell me to take off my wristband?’ ”

Superstition or not, something is working well for Oaks. This past weekend, he recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts against Fordham — bettering his previous high of seven, which he has reached twice already this season. Oaks is throwing a 90-92 mph fastball, a low-80s slider and a high-70s changeup.

“I can throw pretty hard in my opinion,” Oaks said. “So I like to challenge the hitters and say, ‘here it is if you can hit it, and good luck.’ ”

Although Oaks struggled in the beginning of his career to find a consistent place on the field, he was able to gain the experience of batting against some of the top pitchers in the nation. It might be that because of this, Oaks has learned just how to throw in order to be “the man” on the mound.

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