Fall Report: Michigan


Michigan is having a year to remember.

The Wolverines entered the 2019 campaign with high hopes. And they certainly surpassed anyone’s expectations, not only reaching the NCAA tournament, but also flying through the first two rounds, reaching the College World Series and playing Vanderbilt for the national title. Michigan won the series opener against the Commodores. And though it fell just short of a national title, it was still a magical campaign.

That CWS run was memorable, and head coach Erik Bakich and his coaching staff won’t forget it. But as always, it’s also important to turn the page, and they did that this fall, while also remembering what got them where they finished the ’19 season.

“The consistency that we had in the fall, not just in baseball, but off the field as well, was impressive,” Bakich said. “We need to remember the little things that allowed us to be successful last season, and I think our players did a good job of that.

“As great of a season as it was, we didn’t win the national title. We came in second place,” he continued. “That was the theme of the fall. Let’s remember all the little things we did to get better last season, and let’s get re-invested in having another great year.”

Every team this time of year has some question marks as the 2020 campaign, but Bakich really likes the position this squad is in right now.

“I feel pretty much the same way about this team as I did our club last year,” he said. “We weren’t perfect last fall, but we were consistent. And on the enjoyment meter, it’s been off the charts with the players and coaching staff. I thought Ben Keizer did a terrific job of leading and policing the team, and the upperclassmen complemented him well. The guys just know the expectations and behaviors that are expected around here.”

The Wolverines are again primed to have a big-time season, but they’re not without some holes to fill. Stellar starting pitchers Karl Kauffmann and Tommy Henry are gone, and the offense has some key cogs to replace with the departures of hard-nosed Jimmy Kerr and electric Ako Thomas, among others.

Michigan has plenty of terrific options both on the mound and at the plate. And with Bakich knowing exactly what they have in terms of upperclassmen on the mound, several arms sat out this fall, including Angelo Smith, Jeff Criswell, Willie Weiss, Ben Keizer, Isaiah Page, Walker Cleveland and Blake Beers.

From an offensive standpoint, hard-nosed backstop Joe Donovan is back, along with steady shortstop Jack Blomgren and the outfield trio of Jordan Nwogu, Jesse Franklin and Christian Bullock. Michigan also returns Dominic Clementi at the plate, while talented pitcher Ben Dragani returns after missing last season with an injury.

“All the guys that we shut down this fall, we had them focus on gaining more strength and power,” he said. “If you look at our success last year, it really hinged on the strength of our pitching staff, along with a balanced and dynamic offense. That’s what we want our strength to continue to be – we need to remember what we did last season.”

On paper, Michigan looks like a club that will again compete for a trip to the College World Series. But it will ultimately be contingent on how it puts all the pieces together, and how the program manages being one of the hunted.

All that and more set the stage for an exciting fall.

Let’s dive into Michigan’s fall workouts.


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