No obstacle too big for Michigan Wolverines baseball team
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Baseball Writer
ANN ARBOR — Forget all the big-picture reasons why Michigan shouldn’t be able to make the College World Series — the location, the cold weather, the travel.
As the NCAA Tournament was approaching, these Wolverines had more immediate problems.
“We were down to our last strike — of the season. Our season is over if Ako Thomas doesn’t draw a walk and Jordan Nwogu doesn’t hit the two-run double,” coach Erik Bakich said. “Ever since then, our guys have been filled with confidence, belief.”
Bakich called that ninth-inning rally in the Big Ten Tournament a “defining moment” of the season. The victory over Illinois helped the Wolverines slip into the NCAAs as one of the last four at-large teams. Once there, Michigan advanced through its regional and then beat top-seeded UCLA in a pulsating super regional to reach its first CWS since 1984.
The Wolverines are the first Big Ten team to make the CWS since Indiana in 2013. Like many northern teams, Michigan has a schedule reflective of the weather. The Wolverines played their first 13 games away from home. A few years ago, there was talk that the Big Ten should move its baseball schedule to the summer and maybe give up competing for the NCAA title in this sport, but there’s been improvement in the league.
Michigan went on a 20-game winning streak last season. That wasn’t enough for an NCAA berth, but this year, the Wolverines had three players picked in the first three rounds of the draft — pitchers Tommy Henry and Karl Kauffman and outfielder Jordan Brewer.
After avoiding elimination against Illinois, Michigan won two more Big Ten Tournament games before bowing out. In the NCAA regional, the Wolverines gave up seven runs in the ninth inning in an 11-7 loss to Creighton, but they pounded the Blue Jays 17-6 in the next game to advance.