Fall Report: Michigan
Sometimes a simple talk can change the complexion of a college baseball season, or perhaps even the outlook of an entire program.
That could be the case with Erik Bakich’s Michigan program. For all intents and purposes, the Wolverines were a team without much of a postseason chance heading into the final weekend of the regular season this past spring. The Wolverines were 14-10 in the Big Ten Conference, and the non-conference resume didn’t scream postseason team. Then, they hosted Oklahoma State. The Wolverines were pounded 12-2 and 11-5 in the first two games of the series, prompting quite a frank discussion in the locker room before the series.
Michigan players and coaches aired out concerns, and all parties came to the conclusion that no matter what happened, the rest of the season needed to be about having fun, while limiting worries. That discussion apparently worked, as the Wolverines beat OSU in the series finale, and put together a magical run through the Big Ten tournament that ended with an automatic postseason berth and a trip to the Louisville Regional, where they fought hard with Louisville until the Cardinals eventually advanced to the super regional round.
Bakich doesn’t think that meeting cured all woes, but it certainly set the tone and direction for the program at the end of last season. And, potentially, it could serve as a springboard for what should be an interesting, and perhaps historic 2016 campaign.
“We were in the final day of the regular season, and we kind of had a team meeting to air out any dirty laundry or concerns that we might have had,” Bakich said. “Really good things took place in the meeting and it allowed our guys to erase the results and such before that point. The big thing about that meeting is that we got back the mindset of just going out there and having the most fun possible.”
“The way the season ended, it created a lot of positive momentum going into fall workouts. We weren’t talking about goals and results going into the season, we were talking about where we want to be at the end of next June,” he said. “Though it’s all over our walls, we try not to use the words “Omaha” and “Championship” too much. We just want to create an environment where guys in our program are the best versions of themselves each day and trusting that mindset.”
Placing lofty expectations on a team during fall workouts can be a risky proposition, but with the Big Ten looking for a clear front-runner after Illinois, and to a lesser extent, Iowa, lost some key cogs, the Wolverines could be that team for a variety of reasons.
Already a subscriber? Log In to access this article.