Midwest Notebook: Streaking Michigan

Notebook

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Despite winning 36 games a season ago, Erik Bakich’s Michigan club was left out of the postseason. It was surely a disappointing way to finish the season a year after the Wolverines won the Big Ten Tournament and reached a regional for the first time since 2008.

But it seems like Bakich has Michigan in good shape to reach the postseason for the second time in three seasons, as the Wolverines have jumped out of the gates fast in 2017. They currently sit at No. 18 in the D1baseball Top 25 rankings and have one last midweek game against Western Michigan before opening Big Ten play on the road against a talented Maryland team this weekend.

The Wolverines went 3-1 this past week, taking three of four at home against Northern Illinois. Michigan did some damage on the West Coast earlier in the season. After being shut out 1-0 by UCLA in its opening game of the Dodgertown Classic in Los Angeles, Michigan bounced back to notch impressive wins over the Southern California (4-1) and San Diego (3-1). Michigan has won 13 of  of its last 15 games.

Shortstop Michael Brdar has led the charge offensively for the Wolverines. The senior is batting .333/.419/.520 on the season with five doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs. Ako Thomas is the only other Wolverine batting over .300. Thomas, a spark plug second baseman, is hitting .307/.435/.347 and 10-for-11 on stolen bases.

One player to watch going forward is freshman Dominic Clementi. Clementi went 5-for-7 with two RBIs in his first career start against Northern Illinois this past weekend.

Michigan is winning games despite not hitting for a great average as a team. The Wolverines have a team average of .268 through 19 games. The pitching staff has been good so far as Michigan is 36th nationally with a 3.23 ERA. Leading the way on the mound is lefthander Oliver Jaskie. Jaskie is 3-0, 2.60 with 32 strikeouts and 12 walks through five starts. Michael Hendrickson is 1-0, 3.18 through five starts while Alec Rennard also has three wins and a 3.72 ERA.

MCKAY KEEPS RAKING

Louisville LHP/1B Brendan McKay is now hitting .481/.592/.759 with four home runs and 17 RBIs through 54 at-bats. An obvious favorite for the Golden Spikes Award, McKay is also 4-0, 0.36 on the mound. He’s allowed just one earned run through 25 innings for the Cardinals this season.

In his most recent outing against Boston College, McKay struck out 12 batters over seven scoreless innings to pick up the win. He struck out 15 against Pittsburgh in his first ACC start of the season.

McKay’s ability to shut down opposing offenses and rake at the plate are big reasons the Cardinals still haven’t lost this season and sit at No. 2 in the D1baseball.com Top 25.

OTHER NUGGETS

• Two Eastern Kentucky hitters are having tremendous seasons to this point. Junior outfielder Daniel McFarland is hitting .431 and has recorded a hit in every game but two so far for the Colonels. First baseman Ben Fisher, now in his fourth season as a starter for EKU, is batting .410 with eight home runs (tied for fifth nationally) this season. Fisher hit six home runs and drove in 15 runs over five games last week. He had seven RBIs against Chicago State.

• Missouri swept Alabama in its SEC opener over the weekend. Three wins over the Crimson Tide stretched Missouri’s win streak to 19. It’s been an impressive turnaround for the Tigers in their first year under Steve Bieser. Missouri, ranked 24th in the D1baseball Top 25, hasn’t lost since its season opener against Eastern Michigan on Feb. 17.

• Kentucky is another program that’s trending up in the first year under a new coach. After losing four of their first five games of the season, the Wildcats now sit at 15-6 and 3-0 in the SEC after a sweep of Texas A&M this past weekend. Kendall Rogers was on hand for Sean Hjelle’s complete game shutout on Friday night. Hjelle was named the SEC Pitcher of the Week. What’s more, Kentucky has produced a team average of .331, good for fifth nationally. Most of that has been done in the absence of All-American Evan White. White has only played in nine games this season while dealing with hip and hamstring injuries.

• Missouri State slugger Jake Burger continues to crush the ball. Burger, one of the best players in the country, has homered nine times this season. That home run total ties him with three other players for the most home runs in the country.

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