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Michigan baseball: Offensive struggles continue at home opener

Can Michigan baseball get back on track on offense?



Michigan's Jack Van Remortel throws towards home in the ninth inning in the Wolverines' 7-3 win over Louisville in the 2022 NCAA Regional Saturday. June 4, 2022 Louisville Plays Michigan In 2022 Ncaa Regional

Michigan baseball held its 2023 home opener this Wednesday at Ray Fisher Stadium. After starting the season with 11 straight road and neutral site games, Michigan baseball has finally returned to Ann Arbor. Despite the bullpens still having some snow, the Wolverines got clear skies and sunshine with a 44-degree first-pitch temperature.

The Oakland Golden Grizzlies beat the Wolverines 4-1 in a low-scoring pitcher’s duel. Both teams combined for just 10 hits. This is the 6th time in program history that the Golden Grizzlies have beaten the Wolverines in their 35 appearances.

Here are some takeaways from Wednesday’s home opener.

Michigan Bats Stay Cold

Michigan is in a severe hitting slump. In five of their last six games, Michigan has been held to four runs or less, twice being shutout. Against Oakland, Michigan was held scoreless for the first eight innings before Tito Flores hit a homer in the ninth for Michigan’s only run.

Michigan totaled just three hits against Oakland and struck out an alarming 13 times. After the game, head coach Tracy Smith expressed his frustrations about the Wolverines’ recent offensive woes.

“This is embarrassing… utmost respect for [Coach Banfield]. It’s not about Oakland, so when I’m saying embarrassed, I’m embarrassed by the way we’re playing right now, and this is leading up to this game.” Coach Smith added, “When we’re striking out double digits and things like that, it’s unacceptable, and it’s losing baseball, so my takeaways are that stuff has to change… That’s not Michigan baseball… our players are better than that to be striking out 13 times.”

Coach Smith reiterated that his frustrations do not stem from Wednesday’s game alone but rather from the offensive drought the Wolverines are currently going through. The Wolverines have struck out 70 times collectively over their last six games. Michigan baseball lost each of those six games, although it should be noted that four were against ranked opponents.

When asked what has to change moving forward, Smith replied, “It isn’t about the work. The guys are putting in the work… The honest answer is I don’t know right now… I don’t know that it’s technique or mindset. I’m embarrassed, and I hope that our players are embarrassed so that we change our behavior… We’re too easy right now, we’re striking out double digits in baseball games, we don’t give ourselves a chance to win because we’re being very noncompetitive right now.”

Kurt Barr’s Strong Start

Entering Wednesday’s game, freshman pitcher Kurt Barr had only pitched 2.2 innings this season. These came from two appearances, including one “start,” which lasted just two innings. Against Oakland, Barr added 4.1 strong innings to his season total, allowing only three runs, one of which was unearned.

Coach Smith had this to say about Barr’s early season development. “He’s been good in the inner squads and the stuff leading up to the season… We think he’s gonna be a dependable arm out of the bullpen.”

Barr struck out four batters in his start and allowed only one base on balls. Coach Smith finished by praising Barr’s start and reiterated his dissatisfaction with the Wolverines hitting to back up the strong pitching performance. “For a first start, command was a little erratic, but he did his job today. He kept us in it enough that we were in striking distance of three runs, but three runs to our offense right now feels like 30 runs.

Voit’s Long Relief Appearance

Michigan baseball has something special in two-way freshman Mitch Voit. In high school, Voit posted a 0.52 ERA and racked up 86 strikeouts his senior season. What’s more impressive is that he also held a .566 batting average and 1.431 OPS.

At the collegiate level, the Wolverines utilize both aspects of Voit’s talents. Voit currently starts at the hot corner and, coming into Wednesday’s game, had only pitched in late relief appearances, never longer than two innings.

Against Oakland, however, coach Smith switched Voit from third base to pitcher in the middle of the fifth inning. Voit went on to retire all eleven batters he faced, ending the day with 3.2 perfect innings and three strikeouts. This was Voit’s first appearance as a long reliever and opened the door to Voit seeing potential starts on the mound down the line.

Coach Smith said about Voit’s role, “He’s one of our better arms; we’ve gotta find more innings for him… We may have to bump him out of that [closer role] and possibly start him; we’ll see.”

Michigan baseball is now riding a six-game losing streak but have a chance to right the ship this Friday against UAB. The Wolverines travel to Kennesaw, GA to take on the UAB Blazers this Friday, March 10, at 12:00 p.m. EST.

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Augie Pasche is a staff writer who is currently enrolled at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. He covers football, basketball, wrestling and baseball for the Wolverines.