Not my usual in depth recap as I've been swamped and it was just a midweek game. UNC preview will be out tonight late.
Michigan wins 13-7.
I didn't get a good chance to see the FGCU game as apparently the Atlantic Sun doesn't archive baseball games, but I finally got go through the box score and a couple of newspaper articles on the game and I have to admit I was a little surprised at our hitting.
Michigan jumped jumped out to a 4 run lead on a string of hits from Urban, Biondi, Crank, and Dennis, a sac-fly by Toth, and a wild pitch leading to a run, all in the top of the fourth. Unfortunately, we gave up 4 runs the following half inning to tie. Urban and Biondi again lead off the 5th with a pair of hits to plate on run, and Michigan was aided by a FGCU fielding error that allowed another run.
In the 7th, Michigan exploded with 7 runs on only 4 hits. Dufek and Crank both walked to start off the inning, followed by Lorenz and Berset singles. A balk with a runner on third and two errors on the Eagles later, Michigan had a 6 run inning. Dufek would reach base again that inning on a single to score the 7th run.
In all, the offense mounted 16 hits, 10 RBI, 7 walks, and 7 Ks. Biondi was the leader with a 3-for-6 day with a team high 3 RBI. Nick Urban was perfect at 3-for-3 with 3 runs and one RBI. Both Biondi and Urban both registered their first triples on the night as well.
Pitching was solid enough for the offense the team provided. Brosnahan did give up the 4 runs in the 4th on a grand slam, but he worked through it and into the 5th inning. He finished with 4.1 IP, 4 R, 5 H, 6 BB, and 3K. The walks needs to improve, but it was okay for his first career start. Travis Smith closed the door to finish the 5th and worked a scoreless 6th striking out 2 along the way.
Each of the relievers after that gave up a run. Wood, Clark, and Ballantine each worked on inning. Wood and Clark both had 2 Ks a piece. Not great outings, but they didn't collapse either. I'll take that with a 5+ run lead.
SWFlaBlue's kid in a Mike Hart jersey throws out the first pitch.
The game went well for Michigan, and it's fans in attendance:
Michigan (4-4) pounded out  hits against five FGCU pitchers and used a seventh-inning Eagles breakdown to cruise in front of a fairly large and vocal contingent of Wolverines fans.
It sounds from that article that Michigan got lucky that Chris Sale was saved for a ranked team this weekend. I'll take it. Michigan now sits at 4-4 on the season.
Opponent Record (Ranks): 6-1 (none, receiving votes)
All Time Series: 0-0 (first meeting)
Fort Myers, FL
The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles of the Atlantic Sun conference aren't one of the normal middle of the road Florida teams Michigan has scheduled in the past. Unlike Jacksonville, Jacksonville State, or North Florida, FGCU is actually a solid baseball school, and home to multiple players on the preseason All-American watch lists. They are very capable of competing with big-time programs, and they are more than capable at scoring runs.
Weather should be good if not a bit windy tonight. Temperatures are in the low 50s, but winds are expected to be 15-20 mph from the WNW to start the game. The field looks directly north, so it should be a cross wind with a little bit of it coming in from left field. This should lead to a few less homers to left, but could also spell trouble on the infield.
FGCU's primary star is pitcher Chris Sale, who Michigan won't be seeing tonight. He's just that good that he warrants mentioning even in this space. The kid was the MVP of the Cape Cod League this past summer, and he's widely speculated to be a first round if not top 5 draft pick in this year's MLB draft.
But like I said, Michigan is lucky enough to skip that. Instead, they will see junior righty Jack Wagoner, a vagabond pitcher who is on his third school in 3 years. Nothing is available as far as stats in his sophomore year at St. Petersburg College, but in his freshman year, Wagoner started 11 games (13 total appearance) with a 5.84 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 57 innings pitched. He did throw two complete games, but the school being Sacred Heart, he did go 2-8 on the season. This season, Wagoner has two relief outings totaling 4 innings, giving up just 2 hits and striking out 4. One of those two outings was a save.
The Eagles are lead by first/third baseman Zach Maxfield. Maxfield was listed on a few preseason All-American teams, and he's batting at a .370 clip with a team leading 13 RBIs out of his clean up spot. His .519 slugging percentage is 4th on the team.
What should be pointed out, though, is that Maxfield is only the 7th best batting average among starters… at .370. No one in the FGCU lineup is hitting under .333. Only one player is slugging below .415. No player has an on base percentage lower than .438. This team has put up pinball numbers, predominantly from a ton of singles, but it does come against some VERY weak competition. The Eagles swept Temple and took 3 of 4 from Sacred Heart. So take the numbers for what the baby seal clubbing numbers they are.
If I had to pick to players to keep your eye on, it'd be Austin Gaines and Stephen Wickens. Both are hitting over .420, but Gaines has been the slugger with 10 RBIs and an .800 slugging percentage. Wickens is the primary base stealer on the team with 7 steals already this season without being caught. Mikel Alvarez is the secondary base stealer, with 4 in 4 attempts.
Rich Maloney will be sending out Bobby Brosnahan as the mid-week pitcher. Brosnahan is a redshirt freshman and one of the teams two primary left-handed pitchers. Brosnahan has two appearances this season for 4 innings of work. In that time, he's given up 2 runs on 5 hits, 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. Bobby came highly recruited as one of the top pitchers out of high school before having Tommy-John surgery, and he was to be one of our top starting pitching prospects. Hopefully this goes well, but I wouldn't be surprised if he only went a maximum 4 or 5 innings before being removed, regardless of the score. It will be a good sign if he lasts that long against the FGCU lineup.
The weekly game notes have Kevin Krantz returning to start in left field. This probably isn't a bad idea. His defense is probably the best of the three so far, and a mid-week game might give him a chance to warm up his bat. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Stephens get an at-bat or two tonight with time in left field.
I have a feeling Michigan loses this game. Brosnahan is in his first start, most of our relievers that we'll use tonight will probably be back end of the bullpen. I still can't feel that solidly that our offense has awaken yet. It's just hard to predict a win.
- Ft. Myers News-Press: FGCU baseball prepares for big week. Newspaper outlook on the Eagles.
- FGCU SID: FGCU Set to Host Michigan in ‘Swingin at Swanson’. Getting psyched for a BCS program coming to their stadium. Also the source of the picture at the top.
- Michigan SID: Video journal of team fishing trip pictures. See the team OMG SHIRTLESS.
- MGoBoard: Rumor-mongering is what the internet is for. A mgoboad poster may be throwing out the first pitch. Plausible story, but we'll believe it when we get the pictures. If anyone else actually is there and catches him throwing the pitch, give him a solid razzing.
About halfway through the St. John's game, I had come to the conclusion that Michigan 2010 (minus Ryan LaMarre) is Michigan State of 2009. Last year, the Spartans were a dark horse contender in the Big Ten with a couple good batters but were unable to score runs. They relied on their pitching to an extreme, winning several games of the 2-0 variety but also losing games 4-1. Each game was a test of patience for Spartan fans as they hoped and prayed that their offense might give their pitchers just enough support. They finished the Big Ten season at 13-11, good for fifth in the conference.
So now we look at Michigan. A team that, since the LaMarre injury, is averaging 4 hits per nine innings and 1.88 runs per nine innings. That's not going to have us competing in the Big Ten, at least from a championship perspective.
Let's take a broad perspective of the weekend in an attempt to stay positive. It's still early in the season. We're still tinkering with the lineup. Our pitching has been spectacular. Our offense showed signs of life by Sunday. We were never completely out of any game; everything was a pitchers' duel. Despite the struggles, it isn't all doom and gloom for Michigan right now. As a matter of fact, Baseball America's Aaron Fitt has some good things to say after catching parts of each of our games this weekend:
the Wolverines have enough pitching to keep them afloat. Michigan went just 1-2 this weekend, but it allowed just two runs in each of its three games. Righties Alan Oaks, Matt Miller and Tyler Burgoon all turned in strong starts this weekend and showed good stuff. Oaks sat at 90-92 and showed a good 80 mph slider and a 78 changeup […] A scout I talked to said Miller was up to 92 and showing a good four-pitch mix Saturday, and Burgoon racked up seven strikeouts over six innings Sunday thanks to an 87-91 mph fastball, a big-breaking slurve and a decent changeup. And sophomore righty Brandon Sinnery will be a rock in the bullpen thanks to a nasty 74-76 breaking ball.
So with that, a recap of the weekend's games, the left field situation, and the pitching staff: [Ed: after the jump.]
Michigan will spend this weekend, along with all of its BigTen brethren in the Tampa, FL area in one of the nation's premiere early season tournaments of college baseball, The BigEast/BigTen Challenge. The Challenge was created last year as a showcase for two of the better mid-major conferences from north of the Mason-Dixon line, featuring 10 BigTen teams and 8 BigEast teams. This year, the BigEast will send 10 teams to Tampa, including a ranked Louisville team that was absent in the inaugural tournament.
This year's tournament has also not been quite the media darling as last year. As an Opening Day tournament, it was the headliner. No major teams played real opponents in week one, but with the addition of the week to the beginning of the season on short notice, the Challenge has fallen to second fiddle to other tournaments and weekend series. Luckily, the top challenger for tournament of the week was cancelled due to cold, so we're getting back a little bit of our limelight.
Michigan has drawn a tough schedule in this year's tournament, featuring two of the top 3 teams in the BigEast. The Wolverines open with #11 (CBI Composite Poll) Louisville, then St. John's, and a South Florida team picked 2nd in the BigEast coaches' preseason poll.
Michigan should be a strong enough team to finish 2-1, with the loss coming at the hands of Louisville, but it will take some mental toughness without LaMarre to get to that point. I'm hopeful that only having 3 games this weekend should help us out. The less we see of our fourth starters on the weekend the better for the time being.
Team previews and conference outlook after the jump.
Baseball America is reporting that the injury is indeed a broken thumb:
Michigan junior outfielder Ryan LaMarre, a third-team preseason All-American, will miss four to five weeks with a broken thumb, Wolverines coach Rich Maloney told Baseball America this afternoon. LaMarre suffered the injury saturday, when he dove for a ball in the outfield and landed funny. Maloney said it was a clean fracture, so LaMarre should not be affected long-term.
"It's a tough blow for everybody," Maloney said. "It's not fun having your star player out when you're playing the toughest schedule you've ever played—you can't replace what he brings. It is what it is; we'll go back in and claw and battle and fight, and he'll be back for Big Ten play."
This, well, this sucks. It goes on to discuss the same left field by committee I've mentioned previously, with primary backup first baseman Garrett Stephens looking like the first option so far.
The loss will be huge with the BigTen/BigEast Challenge, the UNC series, and the Coastal tournament over the next three weekends.If the five week schedule holds in place, that makes him available for the opening weekend of BigTen play. From there, it's a question on how effective he'll be after that long of a time off.
For those of you who paid attention last year, this is quite similar to the Berset injury suffered sliding head first into second base. Berset broke his thumb in the second weekend of the season at Jacksonville (March 1) and would not return until April 15. That's close to what we're looking at right now.
(Both screen grabs taken from Texas Tech's stream of the game)
Bring back those crutches. As a matter of fact, bring them back and then give me one hell of a dong punch to the soul. That's the way this weekend ended.
After taking the first two games from Jacksonville State by scoring an average of 16.5 runs per game, Michigan started the season in much the same way as last year, a chance injury to a star player. This year, it's Preseason All-American Ryan LaMarre.
After diving for a ball in left center, Ryan got up slowly. Reports had him holding either his hand or arm. I've heard everything from hand to wrist to arm to shoulder. The specifics of the injury are still a mystery, but in today's Daily, we hear that the only thing definite is that LaMarre will be out:
He left the game, and his status remains unclear until further evaluation in Ann Arbor today. Michigan coach Rich Maloney, though, thinks that he may miss "an extended period of time."
“Obviously, that’s going to hurt,” Maloney said of the loss of LaMarre. “Someone else is going to have to step up. Injuries happen to all teams. It’s unfortunate that it’s our star player, but in the same token, we’re a team. Somebody else is going to have to pick up the slack.”
This isn't what we needed. We'll know more as the week progresses, but for now, I'm elevating the Curse of 2009-2010 alert to Orange. There is a High Risk of the Angry Michigan Hating God intervening this season.