At the start of the 2023 season, the Michigan baseball team was in a state of uncertainty. After numerous departures via the transfer portal and a complete overhaul of the coaching staff before the season, the Wolverines have one big question: Who will rise to the occasion, especially on the mound?

Junior left-hander Connor O’Halloran has been the most explosive in Michigan’s new pitching era, but two of its players have also contributed more than ever in senior left-hander Jacob Danner and right-hander Noah Renard. And in the do-or-die match on Wednesday vs Illinoistheir roles as mainstays in the Wolverines’ rotation have been a major reason why they are still in contention for a Big Ten championship.

Renard’s role was especially important as he entered the season initially as a trade, quickly establishing himself as one of Michigan’s best. He often appeared on Fridays to fill in for O’Halloran, thus a big part of the Wolverines’ winning formula to open the series. However, with all the question marks on the mound, Michigan coach Tracy Smith eventually moved him into a starting role. And now that junior right-hander Chase Allen is done for the rest of the campaign, Renard is Smith’s clear second-in-command behind O’Halloran.

In the Wolverines’ season-saving win, Renard again showed his excellence, even when he found himself in uncomfortable situations. Renard earned the win, allowing just three earned runs, accumulating a season-high six strikeouts in the process. His efficiency in establishing an early 5-0 lead while doing his part on the mound allowed Michigan to effectively maintain a lead throughout.

“I think you react to the circumstances around you,” Smith said. “We didn’t have the luxury of having a start on Friday, Saturday (or) Sunday. … It’s just the consistency of what we have to do, we’ll find a way to win.”

Fortunately for the Wolverines, Renard has not only created a winning mentality, but Denner has also made his presence known in the Michigan bullpen. The Wolverines really needed him on Wednesday, the longer Renard’s start lasted. And again Danner passed, this time with Michigan’s season.

When Smith pulled Renard in favor of Denner, Denner was instantly thrown into deep water. The Fighting Illini had runners on the corners and had already scored two runs. And even after Illinois’ Brody Harding hit a bunt that made it 5-3, Denner rallied with two quick outs to help the Wolverines escape danger. This was not unusual for Danner.

“When your name is called, you just try to do whatever you can to help the team,” Danner said. “So whether it’s me or anybody else, I have every confidence that we can do it.”

That’s exactly what Denner did, pitching a scoreless game the rest of the way for Michigan. And while Denner entered the season as a reliever, Smith also called him up for numerous starts. That experience came in handy in his lengthy performance on Wednesday.

“I think I’m fortunate to be able to do both (roles),” Denner said. “It exposed me to different situations. The starter’s pressure was the reliever’s pressure, and it really comes down to Coach Huntinger and Gabe (Sotres) calling a great game … letting me compete.

Even with O’Halloran’s continued excellence in the Wolverines’ game, it seems they’ve found other weapons capable of producing effective outings, especially when working together in the same game. If Michigan can continue to pile up wins and support its top pitchers, perhaps his stay in Omaha will be longer than many imagined.

Source link