After a 20-game road trip, the Michigan baseball team finally gets to enjoy the comforts of Ray Fisher Stadium for the first time this season.

For the third time in four seasons, Michigan (9-11 overall) opens up its home schedule with a three-game series against Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne.

In 2009 and 2010, the Wolverines opened up with sweeps of IPFW, but if they hope to repeat their performances, they will need their bats to awaken.

“I don’t think it’s a concern, but I think it’s something we need to improve on quickly,” said junior centerfielder Patrick Biondi.

Since starting the season red-hot, the lineup has cooled off considerably and it’s reflected in the team’s record. En route to winning six of their first 10 games, the Wolverines averaged 7.3 runs a game. But in their last 10 games, they have just won three. A big reason has been their inconsistent and sometimes non-existent offense — Michigan has averaged just 3.2 runs per game during that time period, scoring more than four runs only twice.

According to Maloney, the Wolverines haven’t given themselves enough opportunities to score runs.

“You’ve got to score runs,” Maloney said. “Some of that is by working yourself to earn more freebies. We’ve got to strike out less so that we’ll get more opportunities. Teams will make errors, but you’ve got to put the ball in play.”

Sophomore right fielder Michael O’Neill and freshman left fielder Will Drake, the team’s two best hitters, have especially slumped recently. Two weeks ago, O’Neill was riding a 10-game hitting streak and was second in the Big Ten with a .480 batting average. Eight games later, O’Neill is now hitting just .363. Over the same period, Drake has seen his batting average plummet from .372 to .329.

But O’Neill and Drake aren’t the root of Michigan’s anemic offense. Biondi, senior third baseman John Lorenz, senior catcher Coley Crank and freshman shortstop Dylan Delany — all key components to the offense — are all hitting lower than .243. As a team, the Wolverines’ batting average has plunged over the past few weeks and currently sits at .251.

If Sunday’s victory against Connecticut was any indication, Michigan could break out of its slump this weekend against the Mastodons (4-14).

The Wolverines knocked Husky starter Jared Dettman out after just three innings. They scored just two runs on Dettman, but their patience at the plate forced him to throw 73 pitches and walk four batters. They took advantage of a weak bullpen to score five more runs against Connecticut’s relievers.

“A couple of us just got into a little bit of a slump,” said sophomore first baseman Brett Winger. “But we’ve been working on it in practice and I think we’re ready to go.”

IPFW will most likely provide plenty of opportunities for the offense to find a rhythm. None of the Mastodons’ three expected starters this weekend — Jason Kalber, Travis Reboulet, Charles Weaver — have an ERA under four, and only Kalber has recorded a win.

Despite the underwhelming numbers of IPFW’s pitching staff, the Wolverines are approaching this series with caution.

“I will caution the team that the batting averages against (the Mastodons’) first two starting pitchers isn’t real high,” Maloney said. “It’s not like teams are ripping the cover off the ball against those starting pitchers. And they average about a strikeout per inning.”

Though the Wolverines don’t have any starting pitchers that average a strikeout per inning, they have plenty of firepower on the mound. Junior right-hander Ben Ballantine is undefeated with a 1.87 ERA, while allowing opposing offenses to hit just .209 against him. Redshirt junior left-hander Bobby Brosnahan has recorded two wins and has a 2.54 ERA.

They should have little trouble against IPFW’s lineup. Not one hitter with more than 14 at-bats is hitting above .300. Senior right-hander Brandon Sinnery, who has struggled of late, will look to record his first win when he starts on Saturday.

The Wolverines are eager to play their first games at home. Maloney, though, just hopes Michigan can put aside its excitement and just play mistake-free baseball.

“Like I’ve told our guys many times over, it’s not us vs. another team, it’s us vs. ourselves.”

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