Even though the stubborn weather refuses to budge north of 50 degrees in Ann Arbor, Michigan began their home schedule this past weekend with a 4-game series against Illinois-Chicago and a single game against Central Michigan. Entering the weekend at a solid 12-5, Michigan swept all 5 games and pushed their win streak up to 6 games to push their record to an excellent 17-5 entering Big Ten play.
To be completely honest, I expected nothing less from Michigan this weekend. Illinois-Chicago and CMU are not only below .500 teams, but they also struggle to score runs consistently. You’ll remember in my weekend preview that if Michigan could hold UIC under 5 runs, they should be successful. True to form, UIC scored never scored more than 4 runs in their 4-game visit to the Fisher Stadium. Michigan did need a walk-off hit from senior OF Cody Bruder to win the final game of the UIC series and a 3-run 7th inning to come from behind to beat the Chips and stay perfect at home.
Harrison Wenson, C. Someone change the record, we’ve seen Wenson on here nearly every week. He continues to impress in 2016, adding 8 hits and 10 RBIs (including 5 in the 2nd leg of the doubleheader on Saturday) to his wild season, pushing his totals to a .417 batting average (3rd in the B1G), .506 on-base percentage (4th), .639 slugging (4th), and 25 RBI (1st).
Brett Adcock, P. Adcock threw a complete game shoutout in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader (7-inning games, but still impressive) with 7 strikeouts and only 4 hits. Adcock lowers his ERA to 2.10 (11th in B1G), batting average against to a B1G best .121, and 39 K’s (2nd in B1G).
Carmen Benedetti, 1B/P. Benedetti was the motor of the offense this weekend, getting on base 14 times in the 5 games, increasing his OBP to .521, second in the B1G, and 19 walks, third in the B1G. He also pitched 2.2 innings of scoreless ball before Bruder’s walk-off hit, striking out 4 batters and not allowing a base runner doing so.
After a much deserved and successful “tune up” home stand before conference play begins, Michigan will enter the meat of their schedule in very good shape. As the only ranked Big Ten team, Michigan’s 17-5 overall and 5-0 home record look exquisite in the standings when those who are unfamiliar with the team see them. Michigan travels to the Windy City for a three-gamer against Northwestern, who is 6-18 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten (eking out a 6-5 win over OSU in their conference opener). I don’t like to apply the transitive property loosely in sports, but Northwestern lost 11-2 to the same UIC team that Michigan just beat 4 times, so combine that and their 6-18 record together, and I think Michigan pushes their win streak to 9 games.
Following the Wildcat Weekend, Michigan then travels to South Bend to face Notre Dame, who will be in the middle of their 3-week home stand (you read that right). Notre Dame is 12-10 right now, but 0-7 against ranked opponents, so their average looking record is not an indication of their talent. To apply the transitive property again, Notre Dame beat UIC 9-5, if that tells you anything. That said, Michigan’s team stat totals are much better than Notre Dame’s, boasting a .303 team average to ND’s .266 average, and a 2.39 team ERA to ND’s 3.90 ERA.
Though Michigan is back on the road again, this road trip is cake compared to the marathons they traveled to begin the season. A 4-game trip to lowly Northwestern and sneaky Notre Dame should not present too many problems; expect Michigan to be 21-5 this time next week.
The weekly rankings were announced prior to Tuesday’s game against CMU, so that win will be factored into next week’s. For now, Michigan opens Big Ten play 20th in Baseball America, 23rd in Collegiate Baseball News, 25th in Perfect Game, and unranked according to D1Baseball.com. Winning four games is good, but UIC was not an opponent of reputable enough caliber to really help Michigan jump much higher than a few spots. Unfortunately, the same goes for the coming week; with the win against CMU and a series against a bad NU team, Michigan won’t be able to move much further, even if they sweep.
Michigan took care of business this weekend as they should have, but the only easy day was yesterday. I know I’ve pushed the Wildcats under the bus throughout, but they are Michigan’s first Power 5 opponent since OKState and only 3rd all season. Big Ten baseball is a different breed from what they’ve seen all year, so regardless of Northwestern’s record, they are not to be taken lightly. I still expect Michigan to take all three against Northwestern and take down the Irish to boot.
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