Recapping Michigan Baseball’s 2016 Pacific Tour

Team 150 was back between the lines again this past weekend after a hot 5-0 start to begin the season. They were unable to keep the hot streak alive much longer, going 3-3 in 7 days’ worth of baseball before succumbing to bad weather and cancelling the final two games against UC Davis.

Michigan started their spring break on the right note, winning the first leg of the California tour 5-1 over St. Joseph’s. Junior 1B Carmen Benedetti started the scoring with a solo home run in the fourth inning, followed by DH Drew Lugbauer’s 2-run single in the 6th inning, and capped off by C Harrison Wenson’s 2-run home run, his second of the season. The pitching staff was truly remarkable in this matchup; starter Ryan Nutof threw 5 shutout innings with 5 strikeouts, followed by Michael Hendrickson pitching three shutout innings of his own, as well as 6 strikeouts.

Michigan suffered their first loss of the season the next day by the same score to Cal Poly. The offense could only muster up four hits, the only run coming unearned in the top of the 9th inning. As great as the pitching was in Game One, they struggled mightily in this affair, walking 13 batters.

The walks decreased last Sunday in a 5-3 loss against Santa Clara, but the offense could not repeat the timely hitting that they showed against Canisius in the opening weekend. Despite pushing across three runs, the Wolverines left 9 men on base, including men in scoring position in four of the nine innings. In the second inning, OF Cody Bruder doubled with one out and stole third, only to be stranded on back to back looking strikeouts, a baseball coach’s worst nightmare.

Facing 10th ranked Cal on Leap Day, Michigan would not be able to win with similar production. They put everything together in a beautiful team victory, taking down the Golden Bears 5-0, adding a huge win to the postseason resume early in the season. LHP Oliver Jaskie got the start and threw another gem, not allowing a run over 5.1 innings; fellow pitchers William Tribucher, Mac Lozer, and Carmen Benedetti all recorded at least one strikeout en route to the team shut out. The big inning came in Michigan’s half of the third, when IF Jake Bivens doubled to center and was promptly driven in by senior OF Matt Ramsay. A few batters later, DH Derek Lugbauer doubled to left, driving in Bruder and Benedetti. Lugbauer would add another RBI in the ninth when he drove in Wenson with another double.

After a back and forth win over San Jose State in which the Wolverines and Spartans swapped four run innings, Michigan dropped the first game against UC Davis by a score of 4-3. In what was originally supposed to be a 4-game series against the Aggies, it appears as if only one will be played due to inclement weather and tricky scheduling with the Big Ten schedule drawing near. Michigan ends their Spring Break 3-3, bringing them to a 7-3 record overall.

Top Performers

Pitchers Oliver Jaskie and Ryan Nutof have emerged as Michigan’s aces. Neither has allowed an earned run yet this season, and the team’s pitching staff as a whole has an ERA of 1.52. Catcher Harrison Wenson has exceeded any offensive expectation; he ends Spring Break hitting .414/.472/.793 with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs, and most importantly, he is the best clutch hitter on the team, knocking in multiple runs when the team needs it. He has been a perfect protection for Carmen Benedetti, who is hitting .321/.525(!)/.500 himself.

Looking Ahead
This was a really tough road trip just in terms of mileage traveled, let alone the quality of opponents faced. As the only ranked Big Ten team, Michigan fared quite well against some solid competitors, but the only easy day was yesterday. With a weekend series against Hawaii followed by slow starting Oklahoma State, Michigan won’t be able to get away with the level of defense they’ve been playing; they didn’t post an errorless game this entire road trip and the team’s fielding percentage sits at .964. The pitching staff has been remarkable, however, posting a 1.52 team ERA.

Baseball America had Michigan ranked 20th before their game against Cal, and moved them up a spot to 19th in their March 7th rankings. Cal’s only loss last week was to Michigan, making that win all the more impressive. Michigan also moved up a spot in Perfect Game’s rankings, from 25th to 24th (Cal is ranked 9th), and D1 Baseball still has Michigan unranked. They are the only Big Ten team ranked in all three lists.

In other news, Big Ten Network released their televised baseball and softball schedule for the rest of the season. Mark your calendars!

Header photo: Michigan Baseball 

Bill Getschman