Michigan designated hitter Brandon Roberts may have had a major
breakthrough on Wednesday.

The senior stepped up to the plate and saw the pitch hurtle
toward him. He took a thunderous swing and watched the ball sail
over the fence.

It was his first home run of the season.

There’s no doubt that Roberts has a big bat. He frequently
sends balls to the distant outfield, but they often remain in the
park. He bats .300 and has an RBI in 12 of the 22 games he has
played this year.

But the home run had been elusive for Roberts until the
Wolverines’ (2-2 Big Ten, 12-11 overall) matchup against
Eastern Michigan on Wednesday afternoon.

“We needed a big lift in that game,” Roberts said.
“And I was able to give it to the team. Hopefully,
it’ll carry on to this weekend, and after that too. Because
before that, I felt like I wasn’t doing my job as a member of
the team. Hopefully now I can step it up a little more and things
will start to turn around.”

Round-trippers have not always been so tough for the senior to
produce. During his sophomore season — in which he won Most
Improved Player honors — he had seven. But his other seasons
have proven less fruitful, bringing just one jack each year.

Roberts is doing his best to make sure Wednesday’s homer
won’t be just a part of an annual occurrence.

“I’m not satisfied with the way I’ve played so
far this year,” Roberts said. “Fortunately, we’re
only 23 games in, so we’ve still got 30 or so more to go.
I’m not exactly where I want to be, but I feel like
it’s an ongoing experience, and that things can turn
around.”

Michigan coach Rich Maloney sees a great deal of potential in
Roberts’s swing, and encourages him to unleash it. This
weekend’s series against Iowa (0-4, 7-16) may be an
opportunity for the Texas native to do so.

“I hope that this can give him some confidence so that he
can deliver some big hits for us — because we really need him
to,” Maloney said. “He’s definitely capable of
doing that. Just the other day in practice, I told him, ‘Just
let it all hang out, just start trying to hit it over the
fence,’ because I think he was being a little bit
conservative.”

Roberts would love to start getting bigger hits. As one of just
three seniors on the squad, one of his primary goals this year is
to set a good example for his younger teammates.

“I’m probably not the most vocal leader, but
hopefully I can lead by example,” Roberts said. “We had
a lot of seniors last year, and we lost them all. We also lost one
of our best hitters in Jake Fox when he got drafted. So you have to
step up in some way to guide those guys and lead those guys,
whether it’s by your voice or through your
actions.”

Maloney said Roberts serves as a model of unselfishness and
team-oriented attitude.

“He’s accepted his role (as designated hitter), and
that’s not easy to do,” Maloney said. “That shows
some leadership right there in the fact that he’s being a
team player because it is in the best interest of the
team.”

Despite Roberts’s struggles, Maloney has high expectations
for the hitter’s final season as a Wolverine.

“His bat needs to be a major contributor,” Maloney
said. “And it certainly was with that tremendous blast (on
Wednesday). So I hope that this will be something that will boost
him for the rest of the year.”

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