YPSILANTI — Sophomore Eric Rose and junior A.J. Scheidt each started their first game of the season in the field yesterday, as the Wolverines defeated Eastern Michigan 18-12 at Oestrike Stadium.
One looked to be in mint condition, while the other showed a little rust.
Rose started 49 games in centerfield last season and led all freshmen with a .317 batting average. But a stress fracture to the right side of his L5 — the largest part of the vertebrae — kept him on the bench for the first 18 games of this season.
“It was exciting (to get back on the field),” Rose said. “I’ve been waiting, I’ve been rehabbing — just waiting to get back and play because we have an exceptional team this year.”
It didn’t take long for Rose to show that he was fully recovered. Leaving his feet and in full extension, Rose made a diving catch in left-centerfield to rob Eastern’s Ryan Arnett of a base hit to end the second inning.
“I take pride in my defense and getting the chance to help out the pitcher like that,” Rose said. “It’s one of the most important things to me.”
The outstanding grab also provided some comfort for Michigan coach Rich Maloney.
“He’s our guy, and they finally deemed him healthy,” said Maloney. “And seeing that catch he made in center, he’s our centerfielder.”
Scheidt also made his season debut in the field yesterday. But Scheidt struggled to find his groove at the hot corner, committing two errors and misplaying a couple of routine ground balls.
“Obviously, it was a little rough,” Scheidt said. “I really appreciate the opportunity to get back out there because we’ve got a lot of depth. I know my arm is ready to go. It’s just about getting my glove back to shape.”
Scheidt started all 60 games at third base in 2004, but he began this season as the designated hitter due to an arm injury. Up until that point, freshman Derek VanBuskirk and junior Alex Martin had been sharing time at third base.
Fortunately, for Scheidt the shoulder injury has not affected his bat hitting. Scheidt is batting .355 with 15 RBI on the year.
Yesterday’s game allowed Maloney to explore some defensive options before heading into this weekend’s Big Ten opener against Minnesota. Maloney also switched up the middle of the infield, with sophomore Leif Mahler at second base and junior Chris Getz at shortstop.
“(That switch) was just keeping our options open,” Scheidt said. “Because you never know when someone is going to go down, so you want to have a little bit of experience in all those areas.”