Kornacki: Lozer a Godsend Out of Michigan Bullpen
Mac Lozer

May 8, 2017

By Steve Kornacki

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Mac Lozer has become quite a setup man for Wolverines closer Jackson Lamb.

Lozer has pitched what amounts to a two-hit shutout over 16 1/3 innings of relief for the University of Michigan this season. Lozer's given up just two singles over 17 appearances, and his ratio of 25 strikeouts to three walks is truly outstanding.

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Lamb hasn't given up an earned run in 22 innings and has nine saves -- three shy of the school single-season record. So, when Lozer and Lamb enter for the final innings with a lead in hand, the Wolverines end up going through the victory handshake line on the infield.

The L&L Duo was dominant again Sunday (May 7) but entered with their team trailing. Ohio State averted a three-game sweep by taking the final game of the weekend series, 4-2, but Lamb and Lozer put on quite a show, combining for six strikeouts to get the final six outs.

Lozer came on to face Jalen Washington in the seventh inning and got him to hit into an inning-ending double play.

"I don't know how I do that," said Lozer. "I always have a knack for finding a double play, and I don't really have any formula for that. I just like to pick the pitchers up. We rely on our starting pitchers and also relievers. But when they get in a sticky situation, we love the feeling of picking their day up and having their day end on a high note.

Then Lozer struck out the side against the heart of the Buckeyes' batting order in the eighth -- getting the No. 3, cleanup and No. 5 hitters all to go down swinging.

"It was just about staying locked in and having a fighter mentality and keeping a cool head," said Lozer. "I've always had my slider, but I've had better command of my fastball and changeup this year. So, I like to use those in count-specific pitch (situations). It's about mixing up pitches and keeping guys off balance."

Lozer has succeeded ever since arriving at Michigan in 2014 from Indianapolis North Central High. His 92 appearances are second in that school career category to Todd Marion, who pitched in 106 games while also setting the school record with 32 saves, 1990-93.

So, what's enabled Lozer to go from very good to excellent as a senior?

"It all started at the beginning of the year," Lozer said. "We came back to campus in the fall, and it wasn't just about me. It was about our entire pitching staff. We committed to do better than we did last year -- especially down the stretch.

"We committed to throwing more strikes and being more competitive out there. We asked everybody to give everything they had and just be a fighter out there. We use that fighter mentality term a lot on this team. We've come together, and we're really close."

Working with Wolverine pitching coach Sean Kenny to assure he has three pitches he can count on has been the key.

"The slider's always been my go-to pitch," said Lozer. "But with Coach Kenny in the fall, we committed to making my fastball and changeup actual game-ready pitches. So, I definitely pitch off the slider. The slider's my best pitch. But after that, I have the fastball and changeup this year."

He throws his slider with the same arm speed as his fastball to set hitters up for deception.

"The slider tunnels (in) like a fastball and then at the last second it breaks away from the right-handed hitter," said Lozer. "So, the slider's a great pitch."

Lozer doesn't have over-powering fastball velocity and said he throws it in the 89-91 MPH range. So, it's only natural that he paid close attention to Greg Maddux while growing up. Maddux didn't throw hard but knew how to pitch and compete as well as anyone. He won 355 games and four Cy Young Awards.

"I don't think I can put myself in the same category as Greg Maddux," said Lozer. "But he pitched off an 88- to 90-mph fastball. He proved that that's a possibility, and with him it was much more than a possibility. He was a Hall of Famer without the fastest stuff, but he was one of the best fighters in MLB as well.

"Now, I like Sergio Romo (now with the Los Angeles Dodgers). He's a guy who pitches off his slider, and I pitch off my slider. So, it's fun to see somebody in the big leagues who doesn't have a fastball as his primary pitch. I love watching him pitch."

Lozer also loves cultivating his blond mustache that has become a talking point around the team.

"I missed the first four weeks of the season with a little arm trouble," said Lozer. "During that, I was growing my hair out and hoping it would help me comeback a little bit. Me and Jackson Lamb were growing out our facial hair, and then we changed it to moustaches.

"So, Jackson and I thrive on the late-inning moustache to get us through sticky situations."

Who has the better 'stache?

"I think mine's a little thicker," said Lozer. "But Jackson's is definitely darker. So, when you're out there on the mound you can definitely see Jackson's better. But if you get closer, you can definitely see the full thickness of mine."

I asked if there was a possible Rollie Fingers handlebar in his future.

"I need to go to the barber shop and have them trim it up to get the wax in there," joked Lozer, while twirling the end of his moustache. "Then I can have the Rollie Fingers or Catfish Hunter look in there."

Bakich

All kidding aside, the No. 17 Wolverines (35-11) are counting on Lozer, Lamb and the rest of the pitching staff to make a deep run in the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. Michigan won the conference tournament in 2015 before fading at the end of last season, and so I asked Lozer what's ahead for this team.

"What's ahead for this team is what wasn't ahead for last year's team," said Lozer. "We've talked about it, and these upcoming two-and-a-half weeks, we have to do what we needed to do last year. Even though we lost today to Ohio State, we were 0-5 against them last year, and we can say we took the series from them this year.

"We talked about being tough and competing -- some of the foundational cracks we talked about in the fall. What we want to do this year is not only prove to ourselves, but to everybody, that we're a tougher team and we can finish. We're fighters out there."

Wolverine head coach Erik Bakich said Lozer epitomizes having great attitude:

"For Mac, it's everything between the ears. He's got a winning mindset. His mental toughness and belief are off the charts. He's a championship player in every regard. He's the type of guy you want in the game when the game's on the line in the toughest, most high-leverage situation.

"There's no measure for his competitiveness because it would be off any measurement chart. He's been such a good role model for every other guy on our staff -- especially for any of the younger pitchers to see how he competes and thrives in those situations by making quality pitch after quality pitch.

"Having that guy at the back of the bullpen has been a godsend for this team. He's meant as much to a pitching staff as a reliever can mean to a pitching staff."

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