Oh how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
While expectations were low for Michigan Baseball coming into the 2019 season, the run they were able to piece together was nothing short of spectacular. The team wasn’t exorbitantly talented outside of ace hurlers Tommy Henry and Karl Kauffmann, as well as outfielder Jordan Brewer (as made apparent by the outcome June’s MLB draft). On paper it looked like another ~.500 season would cap off an admittedly disappointing 2018-2019 school year for UofM athletics. But oh how naïve we were to discount our boys in blue.
The energy which erupted daily from Ray Fisher stadium was uncharacteristically electric, and each day that I took my seat behind the backstop I was treated with a team who were always loose, never flat-footed, and refused to fall behind. The Wolverines took a page out of the 2004 Detroit Pistons book by being a rough-and-tumble, no nonsense, blue-collar squad who wore their hearts on their sleeves. These Wolverines have a story, and they weren’t going to stop until it was over.
Each game it seemed that a new face would emerge from the woodwork to outplay the opposition; from redshirt freshman Isaiah Page holding down the Vanderbilt powerhouse scoreless for 4 innings, to former football recruit Jordan Brewer’s absolute bullet of a throw from right field to record an out at 3rd base in game 1 of the College World Series, every step along their postseason run was more exciting than the last. June of 2019 saw this group of young men bring together a fractured Michigan fanbase deprived of a major National Championship for decades. With the 15-3 stomping of Texas Tech (whom Michigan were 0-3 against during the regular season), the team firmly implanted themselves in baseball immortality, becoming the most watched team in the entire College World Series.
And so, it is with my deepest and most sincere gratitude that I say goodbye to team 153. To the five of you moving on to the next level of competition, and to those of you moving on to the next chapters of your lives, thank you. Welcome, team 154; you have some big shoes to fill.
But where do we go from here?
This past week has been one of both melancholy and excitement for fans looking on to next season as they wonder what the next steps are for D1 Coach of the year Erik Bakich and his boys. How do you build upon the Cinderella-story of 2019? And how do you cope with falling just one win short of a National Championship?
It all starts with the MLB4 tournament, where Michigan will open it’s 2020 season. The other teams invited to compete in the tournament are UConn, Cal Poly, and none other than a Vanderbilt team crippled by the MLB draft. "We are thrilled to open the 2020 season in one of the nation's most elite tournaments against some of the best competition.” claimed Bakich, who has been adamant about taking the team to the next level this upcoming season. February 14-16th will be a chance for the team to set the tone for the 2020 season, where the expectations won’t be near as favorable as years past.
With obvious holes at the front end of the rotation with the departure of Kauffmann and Henry, the Wolverines will look to Jeff Criswell to build on his excellent 2019 season where he sported a 7-1 record, 2.72 ERA, and 116 strikeouts en-route to a selection to the All-Big Ten Conference first team. Criswell has been spending his summer with USA Collegiate National Team where he’ll hone his craft against international competition, including the Japanese national team this week.
As the countdown to the 2020 season begins and excitement builds, be sure to check back here for my coverage of "the greatest show on dirt" and their pursuit of a National Championship.