Michigan Wolverines Baseball Season Preview
Michigan baseball begins its season this Friday in Florida attempting to return to the NCAA Tournament.
The Wolverines have high expectations for the upcoming season.
”I’m one of those guys who’s focused on how we play and how we prepare and how we go about things on a daily basis,” head coach Erik Bakich said. “My expectations are that we keep growing and improving and keep a growth mindset throughout the entire season every single day.”
Bakich and U-M are looking to build off a successful 2018 season. The Wolverines have 24 players returning from a team that compiled a 33-21 record last season and advanced to the program's sixth straight Big Ten Conference tournament.
In the Big Ten Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, the Wolverines were picked to finish second in the conference behind Minnesota. U-M is the only Big Ten team to appear in every national preseason top-25 ranking. The Wolverines enter the season ranked as No. 17 in the D1Baseball.com Top 25 and No. 20 by Baseball America.
Michigan’s best hitter is junior outfielder Dominic Clementi who led U-M last season with a .368 batting average and a .485 on-base percentage last season, earning him American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings All-Mideast Region First Team and first-team All-Big Ten honors. He was selected as one of three players from Michigan selected as Players to Watch by the conference heading into the season.
“Dominic just has tremendous bat-to-ball skills,” Bakich said. “He’s got a smooth, compact swing that generates a lot of bat speed and pop. He’s able to slow the game down offensively and take what the pitcher gives him.”
Sophomore outfielder Jesse Franklin was also named to the Big Ten preseason watch list after he earned Freshman All-America honors from Baseball America, D1Baseball, Perfect Game, NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball News last season. In his first season in the program, he batted .327 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI.
Michigan’s other Player to Watch selection is sophomore outfielder Jordan Nwogu, who batted .349 last season with 15 extra-base hits last season. He earned Collegiate Baseball News Freshman All-America honors as well as All-Big Ten second team and All-Big Ten Freshman Team selections.
Two of Michigan’s other leaders are senior infielders Ako Thomas and Blake Nelson.
“Ako and Blake are just savy veterans,” Bakich said. “They’ve played a lot of baseball. They’ve been around a long time. They’re able to slow the game down. Ako is just a sparkplug catalyst. He’s a momentum changing type of player. He’s the kind of guy that create momentum for your team via fantastic web gem or can start a rally on offense.
“Blake Nelson is just a high baseball IQ, very good extension of the coaches on the field because he understands the game. He’s one of those guys who can communicate what’s going to happen from an anticipatory standpoint.”
Left-handed junior pitcher Tommy Henry will lead Michigan’s pitching staff this season after finishing last season with seven wins and an ERA of 3.09. He was second-team All-Big Ten in 2018.
“He’s just very consistent,” Bakich said. “He not only has the combination of good stuff with good command, he just has a very good demeanor to be starting pitcher. He doesn’t get rattled and he has a good temperament.”
Henry and Michigan begin their season with a three-game series against Binghamton in Port St. Lucie, Fla., starting Friday.
“I’d like just to see their mindset translate to execution really,” Bakich said. “I want to see guys be aggressive, make aggressive mistakes because they’re playing fearless and having a ton of fun. Looking forward to seeing them get out in that Florida weather and feel like a bunch of uncaged Wolverines.”
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