The Michigan baseball team’s success against Iowa last weekend vaulted it to second place, tied with Penn State and just one game behind undefeated Minnesota in the Big Ten standings.
“Well, I think whenever you go on the road and win a few games, then it is a successful weekend,” Michigan assistant coach John Lowery said. “Our pitchers did good all weekend, and we were definitely swinging the bats well.”
Trying to duplicate its success in Iowa City, Michigan will host Eastern Michigan this afternoon at the Fish.
Eastern Michigan holds an overall record of 7-11 coming into Ann Arbor. However, the Eagles have won four out of their last five games entering the matchup against Michigan.
“(Eastern Michigan) has always been a competitive team,” Lowery said. “They are a great offensive club with two preseason All-Americans in their shortstop (Brian Bixler) and right fielder (Ryan Goleski). They’ll be ready to play us, so we better be ready to play them.”
Goleski is Eastern Michigan’s all-time leader in homeruns, and he is one of four players in the Mid-American Conference chasing the league’s career mark for homeruns. At this moment, Bixler is the Eagles’ team leader in homeruns by hitting his third and fourth homerun in consecutive at-bats against Bowling Green.
But, the Eagles have a tough task before them with the recent offensive explosion from the Wolverines.
Sophomore shortstop Nick Rudden was the first Wolverine this year to be named the Big Ten Player of the Week with his performance against the Hawkeyes.
“(Rudden) has been a big spark plug for our team,” Lowery said. “He’s a guy that hustles consistently. It’s a great thing for him to win this honor. In the beginning of the year, he wasn’t even a starter. But, when he got a chance, he has played really well.”
Rudden posted a .571 batting average on the weekend, with six runs and a .600 on-base percentage. He had two hits in each game and scored the winning run for the Wolverines in two of the games at Duane Banks Field.
Rudden is now the team leader in batting average (.486) and currently has an 11-game hitting streak.
Junior catcher Jake Fox tied senior third baseman Brock Koman’s 17-game hitting-streak with two hits against the Hawkeyes on Monday.
“(Fox) is a great player for us,” Lowery said. “He hits for average and power. It’s always exciting to watch him hit.”
Earlier in the season, the Michigan batters carried the Wolverines to victory. However, the pitchers found their command in the team’s trip to Iowa City.
Three impressive performances from sophomore Michael Penn, junior Bobby Garza and sophomore Phil Tognetti resulted in three crucial Big Ten victories this past weekend.
Both Penn and Garza pitched complete games against Iowa, with Penn striking out eight and holding the Hawkeyes scoreless. Tognetti followed the two by working 6.2 innings en route to his second win of the season.
“Those three guys have never really started a college game before,” Lowery said. “Garza and Penn have shown signs of stardom. Once they relaxed themselves they did great. We only walked four guys all weekend. (Tognetti) struggled in the beginning of the season and, on this team, if you struggle you got to wait your turn to play again. Tognetti waited his turn, and he really pitched spectacular. He has done pretty good recently.”