So far this season, Michigan’s schedule has not been exceedingly difficult, though that’s not to say they have not beat good teams, either. Wins against Cal-Berkeley and Oklahoma State highlight the young resume, but at the time of this writing, the opposing winning percentage is .478, not exactly the battle-tested path that will lead to a deep tournament run.
This past week, Michigan faced some of the Big Ten’s best in Minnesota and an impromptu non-conference rivalry game with MSU, and though they had entered winning 10 of their last 11 games, Michigan lost two to the Gophers (third game was called due to weather) and the game in East Lansing, creating a new season worst 3-game losing streak. Team 150 seemed to have saved all their offense for Eastern Michigan, however, when they lit up the scoreboard for 19 runs to end the losing streak and get back on track before more tough conference play.
They currently sit at a pretty 22-9.
I feel partially responsible because I said that Michigan would take care of business against Minnesota despite having one of the best offenses in the country. Minnesota scored in bunches in Game 1 of the Friday doubleheader, benefitting from two leadoff walks and ninth inning errors to put up eight runs, well above their season average of 6.6 runs per game. Despite walking 13 Gophers in Game 2, Michigan kept it much closer, but still found themselves on the wrong side of a 5-3 deficit, only mustering up 5 hits, their lowest of the season since they only got 4 against Cal Poly in February.
Michigan then traveled the short trip to East Lansing to face Michigan State, who has the best winning percentage in the Big Ten at 23-6. Other than an 8-run 6th inning for State, which was fueled by a poisonous cocktail of walks and errors, it was an extremely even matchup; it was a thrilling tease for the 3-game home and home that comes at the end of this month. Michigan lost by a final score of 11-5.
Then poor Eastern Michigan came to town to serve as a punching bag game against an excellent team that had been truly stifled for the first time since the beginning of the season. The offense went crazy, collecting 19 of both hits and runs, as well as 16 team RBI, crushing the Eagles by a score of 19-3. This sets up Michigan nicely for the coming weekend series, in which they will need all the offense they can get.
Though it was a frustrating week (both on the field and in the forecast), there were still plenty of notable performances (including the entire team for the Eastern game), but I will again try to whittle it down to only a few.
Cody Bruder, OF. Bruder had a season high 5 hits (including 3 doubles and a triple) against Eastern, also knocking in 5 runs and scoring 4 to boot. He also had 3 hits against Michigan State and a hit in each game against Minnesota, bringing his hitting streak to 12 games.
Jake Bivens, 3B. Bivens was held hitless against Minnesota in Game 2, ending his own hitting streak, but still collected 2 hits in every other game of the week, raising his batting average to a team best .381.
Michael Brdar, SS. Brdar has had a slow start offensively, but he found a groove this past week, hitting .400 (6 for 15) including 3 RBI against Eastern. He raises his average to .263 on the season.
Michigan faces a tough Nebraska team this weekend for a three game series. The Huskers sit at 7-2 in the Big Ten and 22-10 overall, though their schedule is weaker than Michigan’s is. Of their 7 B1G wins, 5 came against Purdue and Northwestern, who are the worst teams in the conference, and the other 2 are against Illinois, who is also under .500 and struggles to score runs. Offensively, the Huskers are right on Michigan’s tail in terms of batting average and on-base percentage, but they are not a contact or a manufacturing team. They are a power hitting team; their 30 home runs are second in the conference to OSU, and their .449 slugging percentage is second to Minnesota’s .462. Like last week, facing Nebraska will be a test of Michigan’s pitching staff to dispatch a power hitting offense. I’m confident that Adcock & Co. will find their rhythm again and take two of three against Nebraska, who hasn’t seen a staff of this caliber yet. They then host a single game against Toledo, who is 7-25-1 and hasn’t won consecutive games all season. Michigan is 3-0 against MAC teams; expect that to move to 4-0.
Michigan’s 1-3 week doesn’t look good on paper, but the 3 losses were against the Big Ten’s two best teams. That didn’t matter to most of the pollsters, who escorted them quickly out of the Top 25. They dropped all the way from 18th to unranked, which is a little excessive, in Perfect Game, from 20th to 22nd in Baseball America, 25th to unranked in D1 Baseball, and from 20th to unranked in Collegiate Baseball News. Winning the series against Nebraska won’t be enough, they’ll have to hold the Huskers to a small run total if they want to impress the national writers (which has been hard to do for Michigan so far this year).
Michigan played 4 games in some of the worst possible baseball weather possible. I work for a minor league baseball team and we only managed to play one out of five games scheduled this past weekend; the fact that Michigan somehow managed to complete 4 games in the winter squall is impressive in itself. Playing the best teams in the conference in that weather won’t end well for anyone; with gorgeous weather this weekend and a nice distant forecast for the MSU rivalry weekend, Michigan will be just fine moving forward.
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Header photo: Michigan Baseball