With the Big Ten opener against Michigan this weekend, head coach Will Bolt’s message to his team after dropping the non-conference series with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi—and losing by a whopping 17 runs in game three—remains the same: find a way to be consistent. That starts with preparation on the practice field.
This week has been a little unique, though. Mondays are usually off days for the team. Tuesdays are a bit lighter. But Wednesday’s game with South Dakota State was canceled due to inclement weather, so the team used it as a practice day.
“Had a great practice yesterday, the energy was great,” Bolt said Thursday inside the Alex Gordon Training Complex. “In baseball there’s going to be ups and downs. We have to find a way to just show up and give your best each day, and that gives you a chance to be successful and consistently successful. Heads are in the right spot, we’ll go have a good practice today and we’ll be ready to get after it again this weekend.”
Bolt said he and the team wanted to play on Wednesday against the Jackrabbits, which would have helped get the taste of that 17-run loss out of their mouths quicker. However, there are silver linings to not playing.
“Does it give us a chance to maybe line our pitching up a little bit better that was kind of screwed around last week? Yeah, I think that definitely helps,” Bolt said. “But we wanted to play, but obviously Mother Nature had other ideas.”
Michigan will come into the three-game series with a record of 11-9 record. The Wolverines are coming off an 8-2 loss at Xavier but has played a top-five opponent on their schedule tough—they lost by just one run, 5-4, to No. 4 Vanderbilt on March 15.
It’s a different ballgame against Big Ten opponents. There are bigger, more physical batters. On the mound, there’s more velocity than in years past.
Right-hander Koty Frank will get the ball on the mound in game one Friday night while Shay Schanaman will start Saturday and Dawson McCarville on Sunday. Friday’s game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. start and will be televised by the Big Ten Network. Saturday’s game is a 2 p.m. start while Sunday’s begins at 11 a.m.
Michigan ranks second in the Big Ten in runs scored (161) and hits (198) and is tied for second in home runs (23) and RBIs (149). The Wolverines are averaging 2.15 doubles per game, good for 58th in the country. They’ve also belted 43 doubles, which is 15 more than the Huskers have. Clark Elliott and Ted Burton each have nine doubles to lead the Maize and Blue this season while Tito Flores has seven. Brice Matthews is the team-leader in doubles for the Huskers with six.
Michigan will start lefty Connor O’Halloran on the mound. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Canadian has a 2-2 record on the season with a 2.70 earned-run average. He has a 33-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“They’ve hit some home runs and doubles, they can steal bases—that’s something they’ve always done,” Bolt said. “Their left-hander that’s going against us tomorrow night has had really good numbers and he’s going to be tough. After I think after that they’re trying to decide what they’re going to do Saturday and Sunday. But offensively they can score runs in bunches.”
The start of the Big Ten season will be viewed as a reset for a team that’s currently 8-11. Bolt mentioned exactly that to his team earlier this week, calling it a whole new season.
“If you look at it last year, we would already have been halfway through our season, and we’re not even a third of the way through the season right now for the number of games we’ve played, so it’s a long season,” Bolt said. “Most of the guys on this roster don’t know, they don’t know what the 56-game schedule looks like. We’ve only played 19 games, there’s a lot of season left to go and it’s good to hit the reset button. Got conference coming up, coaches can do the same thing—can figure out different buttons to push. It’s just a different mindset.”
Griffin Everitt sees the Michigan series and Big Ten play as a fresh start to a new season. Everitt has been a bright spot this season, batting .329 in 70 at-bats with a team-high five home runs and 17 RBIs. The Lincoln Southwest High School product was named the Co-Big Ten Player of the Week.
“Last year this was kind of the beginning of our season, all we did was play conference play, so our goals are still in front of us,” Everitt said. “We still want to win the Big Ten. Last year, that’s what put us in potential to host a regional, so we’re still in control of our destiny. Just take it day by day and hopefully we get back to where we were.”
More news and notes
>> Bolt said there hasn’t been an update on pitcher Kyle Perry, who left last Friday’s game with discomfort. Perry won’t be available this weekend against Michigan.
>> Everitt said practice this week has gone well. There was “clean” play, not many mistakes or balls hitting the ground. It’s Everitt’s bat that has given the team a shot of life at times. He’s not doing anything fancy or changing much. Just trying to keep things simple.
“I just try and focus on seeing the ball,” Everitt said. “In the past, I’ve been mechanical, been thinking too much about, ‘I gotta be looking for this pitch,’ but I’ve really just simply been seeing the ball, trusting my eyes and trying to hit the ball hard. Put a big swing on it.”