Michigan Baseball Enjoys Success in Big Ten Opener

Hello, midwest springs! Michigan began a chilly April with a 3-game series at Northwestern, followed by single games against Notre Dame and Bowling Green.

Entering the weekend trip at 17-5, some bad weather forced a change in schedule, creating a double header on April Fools Day against the Wildcats, whom Michigan would handle easily via scores of 10-4 and 12-3.

  • In Game 1 of the double header, the top of the order produced most of the offense, with Jake Bivens collecting three hits and scoring three runs and Carmen Benedetti scoring two runs of his own. In Game 2, senior Matt Ramsay exploded for three home runs, two singles, and 7 RBI and pitcher Brett Adcock threw 6.1 shutout innings with 8 strikeouts to quiet Northwestern.
  • The series finale was an offensive thriller with Michigan emerging victorious, 11-9. After some rocky starting pitching, Evan Hill came on in relief to throw 4 shutout innings, allowing Michigan to fight back and regain the lead behind the 3-hit performances of Harrison Wenson and Cody Bruder.
  • Michigan’s Big Ten record sits at a cool 3-0, top of the leaderboard with Michigan State.

In mid-week play, Michigan dropped a tough one against Notre Dame in South Bend.

  • The Irish leapt to an early lead, scoring four runs on both William Tribucher and Troy Miller, making the score 8-0 after 5 and pushed another across the following inning to make it 9-0 after 6. Michigan did not quit, however, with a Michael Brdar home run in the 7th and a 4-run 8th, they made it interesting but ultimately could not pull off the comeback and lost, 9-5, ending Team 150’s 9-game win streak.

Coming back to Fisher Stadium to begin a 9-game home stand, Michigan took care of Bowling Green, 5-0.

  • 1B Drew Lugbauer slammed two dingers on the day, and the pitching staff spun a collective gem, limiting the Falcons to only 5 hits on the afternoon.
  • Michigan stays perfect at home, and ends the most recent string of games at 21-6, the most wins in the B1G and second best winning percentage.

Top Performers

Jeez, where to start. In the past 5 games, Michigan saw so many different players step up at one point or another. It will be hard to pick only a few, but I’ll do my best.

OF Matt Ramsay. The graduate transfer from Wofford really turned it up this past week, not only because he hit three home runs in one game, but also because he led the team in RBI and walks throughout the week, scored eight runs, and collected 7 hits in 5 games. This performance earned him B1G Co-Player of the Week, along with Minnesota’s Matt Fiedler.

1B Drew Lugbauer. The sophomore slugger collected 5 hits this past week as well as 6 RBI and 4 runs scored in Michigan’s 4-1 swing. His splits now sit at .308/.402/.484, an incredible display of all around offensive performance, and he has certainly entrenched himself as a keeper in Michigan’s lineup.

3B Jake Bivens. Bivens continues to mash at the top of the order, this week collecting 11 hits, 8 runs scored, and only striking out once. His 8-game hit streak is the catalyst for the Michigan lineup; his .438 OBP at the top spot has been instrumental in their successful start so far in the 2016 season.

Looking Ahead

Michigan may be 3-0 in the Big Ten, but they played one of the conference’s worst teams. This weekend, Minnesota comes to Ann Arbor for a 3 game series, which is bound to be entertaining. Minnesota enters the series at 16-10 and 2-1 in the Big Ten, but they have the conference’s best offense. The Golden Gophers boast the best team average (.330), second best on-base percentage (.389), best slugging percentage (.471), and second most total bases (446), and are bound to give Michigan’s starters some headaches. Minnesota is a contact heavy team; they do not walk at a very high rate, which is good news for Michigan’s pitching staff, but they also do not strike out much either.

Minnesota’s offense has 3 main contributors: Matt Fiedler, Terrin Vavra, and Austin Athmann. Fiedler and Vavra have the 2nd and 3rd best batting averages in the Big Ten (respectively), at .415 and .413. Athmann leads the Big Ten in slugging at .756, which is just absurd for college, let alone a northern team that has played in the snow for a month. Their offense is incredible, but it also hasn’t ran into a pitching staff as good as Michigan’s. I predict Michigan takes two out of three in a slugfest series.

Michigan also hosts a single midweek game against neighboring Eastern Michigan, who recently swept Bowling Green, and beat Michigan State. Eastern currently sits at 12-16 (4-11 on the road) and have a team average of .252 and team ERA of 4.97. Though statistics never tell the whole story, Michigan should take care of business against the Eagles. At 21-6 currently, I predict Michigan will be 24-7 at the time of my next writing.

Rankings

Rankings came out a few days ago, but Michigan moved up after sweeping Northwestern. 17th in Baseball America, 18th in Perfect Game, 20th in Collegiate Baseball News, and 25th in D1 Baseball. With success against a good Minnesota team this weekend, Michigan might crack their highest rank of the season.

Overall

Michigan did well this past week, as we expected them to. The loss to Notre Dame wasn’t anything to dwell on; had the Irish gotten Adcock or Jaskie, I think things would have turned out much differently. Michigan’s defense was also in much better form this weekend, not committing an error against Northwestern and one each against Notre Dame and Bowling Green. With how much Minnesota puts the ball in play, the defense will need to be in top form to win the series.

The meat of the Big Ten schedule is right around the corner and Michigan is in excellent shape as the Wolverines have been hitting the cover off the ball. So, get out to the game and make sure to bring your glove.

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Header photo: Michigan Baseball 

Bill Getschman

Bill Getschman

Born in east Michigan, schooled in west Michigan, live in mid Michigan. Craft beer nerd, cinephile, Oreo enthusiast.
Bill Getschman