Come out and play
Wolverine baseball is back after a terrific 2019 season. It was the first time a Big Ten Conference team reached the NCAA Championship title game since 1966. These images come from Game One of the championship series in Omaha June 24, in which U-M triumphed over Vanderbilt 7-4. Let’s relive some of those magic moments. (All images: Michigan Photography.)
Minutes after the Wolverines clinched their first NCAA regional title since 2007, the Arizona Diamondbacks made pitcher Tommy Henry the 74th pick in the 2019 MLB draft.
In his seventh season at the helm of Michigan baseball, Erik Bakich guided the Wolverines to their eighth College World Series in team history, and a national runner-up finish. He recently was named Coach of the Year by two organizations: D1Baseball.com and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
The team, the team, the team
The Wolverines have made it to the College World Series title game twice in program history (1953 and 1962), and emerged victorious both times. They almost clinched it again in 2019, and hopes are high for future seasons.
Michigan’s loss to Vanderbilt in the College World Series ended a surprising postseason run for the Wolverines, which went from being one of the last four teams picked for the 64-team NCAA Tournament to becoming the first Big Ten team to play in the finals since Ohio State in 1966. Even as the heartbreaking loss sank in, the thousands of U-M fans who traveled to Omaha packed into a few sections behind the dugout and began to chant: “It’s GREAT to be a MICHIGAN WOLVERINE!”
(From left) Willie Weiss, Christan Bullock, Joe Pace, and Jimmy Kerr can’t contain their excitement in Game One as they revel in the thrill of taking Team No. 153 to the College World Series this summer.
“We made a mark”
Left fielder Christan Bullock told mgoblue.com’s Steve Kornacki after Vanderbilt clinched the 2019 championship: “Hopefully, we made a mark and people will remember for years to come. It builds a big fire for next year. We don’t like the taste of losing, and we’re going to remember this feeling every day.”
Pitcher Jeff Criswell finished the season with a 7-1 record through 22 appearances and 17 starts. He earned three saves on the year — all of which came during the NCAA Tournament — as his role transitioned from a starter to a reliever during the Wolverines’ historic run to the College World Series Finals. The right-handed pitcher recently was selected by USA Baseball to the 26-man 2019 Collegiate National Team.
We’re havin’ fun now
Game One of the championship series was filled with joyous moments like this, as Jack Blomgren and Jordan Brewer celebrate their win. Michigan had not played, let alone won, a College World Series game since 1983.
All in the family
First baseman Jimmy Kerr represents the third generation of Wolverine ballplayers who’ve made it to the College World Series. Grandfather John Kerr helped pitch the University of Michigan to the 1962 NCAA baseball championship. His son, (and Jimmy’s father) Derek, was a catcher on the Wolverines’ last two College World Series teams in 1983 and 1984. Jimmy is the slugging first baseman and co-captain who helped lead the 2019 Michigan team to the championship game. (That’s Ako Thomas in the background.)
Coach Erik Bakich (second from left) enjoyed the support of his comrades at the College World Series. U-M coaches Juwan Howard (men’s basketball), Kim Barnes Arico (women’s basketball), Chaka Daley (men’s soccer), and Carol Hutchins (softball) traveled to Omaha to cheer on the Wolverines.
Playing with heart
Catcher Joe Donovan captivated baseball fans with his signature white bandana. It honors his brother, Charlie, who also was recruited to play at U-M but died shortly after graduating high school. Joe told mgoblue.com’s Steve Kornacki: “I was in high school (at the time), and all of the surrounding neighborhoods, friends, and family would tie white bandanas or ribbons around their trees in memory of my brother. So, I’m not a tree, but I wear it every inning of every game.”
Outfielder Jordan Brewer was named the Big Ten Player of the year this season. He was selected by the Houston Astros in the third round of the MLB draft.
Start me up
Designated hitter and outfielder Jordan Nwogu is one of five returning starters from a team that won over countless fans this season. “We’re not satisfied, but we’re definitely happy,” he said to mgoblue.com’s Steve Kornacki as Vanderbilt took the national title. “It was a heck of a run. For Michigan, it’s now the standard to get here. It’s attainable.” Men’s basketball coach Juwan Howard likes what he hears.