After losing each of their first three games by only one run (two games in extra innings), the men broke out the bats in Port St. Lucie for the first victory under the new coach.
Sophomore James Bourque (Ann Arbor, Mich./Huron) earned the win on the mound, scattering six hits and allowing just a run with four strikeouts in 5.2 innings. At the plate, junior Michael O'Neill belted his first home run of the season, a three-run shot to left in the eighth inning. O'Neill joined senior Patrick Biondi with two hits on the day, as Biondi drove in and scored a pair of runs.
For more details, MGoBlue LINK.
A doubleheader against Fordham tomorrow, and then they get to face the Mets (yes, [some of] those Mets) in an exhibition.
Good day for both teams of bat-and-ball-slingers.
Interesting article from Angelique Chengelis—Erik Bakich remakes Michigan baseball with mental training, community presence—in advance of Michigan baseball's first game tomorrow.
"The reason we do perspective posters and visit the hospitals is so these guys have a true appreciation for how fortunate they are," Bakich said. "But also with baseball, you build up these bottom-of-the-ninth, game-winning situations like they're life and death. When we actually go visit people who really have struggled with life and death, you understand we're playing a kid's game. We can actually perform better knowing it's not really a life-or-death situation. It's about execution and we'll make the opponent make it life or death."
. . .
Bakich has enlisted the help of Brian Cain, a mental conditioning coach who has worked with several college baseball programs. Cain's purpose is to give players tools to understand the mental aspects of baseball.
"They've learned how to implement routines and use breathing and visualization and self-talk to not only help them maintain their confidence, but be able to focus on one pitch at a time," Bakich said. "Brian has been great for routine implementation and getting these guys to stick to the process."
And part of that process is, very simply, having the players work on their breathing, whether he's a pitcher, hitter, or playing defense.
The players also have been taught to recognize "signal lights," when game situations are getting tight and players begin to talk to themselves negatively. Every player, Bakich said, has a release, whether it's kicking dirt, taking his helmet off or adjusting his batting glove. Next, the player finds his personal focal point, whether it's the left-field foul pole or a spot on the bat, for example, and he then returns to positive thinking.
And here's the official Michigan baseball preview video:
UPDATE: Michael O'Neill was named to 50-man preseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award
With only 11 days until Michigan's 2013 season opener, a few Big Ten conference previews were posted today.
The most detailed one, from Baseball America, has several Michigan-related items:
- Michigan picked to finish a surprisingly high sixth place
- Wolverine outfielder Michael O'Neill selected as preseason conference player of the year and the #2 prospect for the 2013 MLB draft
- Freshman Evan Hill, a left-handed pitcher, tabbed as top newcomer
- Michigan also featured with this:
Michigan Jr. OF Michael O'Neill (.327/.381/.525, 19 SB), whose uncle Paul was a five-time all-star with the Reds and Yankees, was the fastest player in the Cape Cod League last summer (6.36 seconds in the 60-yard dash). He also has bat speed, power potential and center-field skills. O'Neill plays right field for the Wolverines in deference to Sr. OF Patrick Biondi (.303/.408/.407), a smaller speedster who led the Big Ten with 32 steals last spring and the Cape with a .388 batting average last summer. He turned down the Marlins as a ninth-round pick.
Most of the Perfect Game preview is behind a paywall, but they pick Michigan to finish eighth.
Based on a survey of 9 out of 11 Big Ten coaches, College Baseball Insider has Indiana as the favorite to win the conference title (as do the two sites above). Biondi and O'Neill figure prominently in their rundown of the conference's best players:
The best defensive outfielder: Patrick Biondi, Michigan
The best outfield arm: Michael O’Neill Michigan
The best pure hitters: Michael Pritchard, Nebraska; Sam Travis, Indiana; Michael O’Neill, Michigan
The biggest power threats: Sam Travis, Indiana; Chad Christensen, Nebraska; Michael O’Neill, Michigan
. . .
The best baserunner: Patrick Biondi, Michigan
Here are some miscellaneous items:
- In their countdown of the top 100 players in the country, College Baseball Daily, after previously placing O'Neill at #77, has Biondi at #41.
From a scouting perspective, the success that Biondi had with a wood bat in the CCBL during the summer of 2012 shows a lot of promise. When added with his intuitive defense and fantastic base-running ability, that success may make all the difference for Biondi in the 2013 draft. Having Biondi back for his senior season gives the Wolverines one of their most talented players and leaders in 2013, as Biondi is one of the top players to watch for this season.
- As I posted in another thread, Erik Bakich made an appearance on WTKA this morning—here's the podcast. Among other things, Bakich talked about how young the team is, with many freshmen expected to play major roles. If the season were to begin today, the starting infield would include three freshmen.
- This is from a couple weeks ago, but in case anyone missed the news release, Biondi was named team captain and was one of five players selected for the team's Leadership Council.
Mark Snyder at freep.com has the details on Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich's contract:
- Five-year deal, with nearly $830,000 in base salary, starting at $150K/year and increasing to more than $182K for the 2016–17 season
- $65,000/year for TV, radio, Internet, apparel, and so on
- $25,000/year for a possible sponsorship deal with a bat manufacturer
- Various performance bonuses, ranging from one month base salary for a Big Ten title/NCAA bid to $25,000 for a national championship
The reports at the time of his hiring of compensation of $400K+ were obviously exaggerations as Brandon had suggested. The other interesting thing is that while Bakich will be making much more than he was at Maryland, where his base pay was a little over $100K, his overall compensation is significantly below what Michigan was paying Maloney, who had a contract topping out at $349K in total compensation in its final year.
The early signing period came and went without Michigan issuing a press release on the signees; they perhaps will do so following the regular signing period in the spring. In any event, it appears that the new staff signed about a dozen prospects and did a great job of hanging onto several players who had committed under Rich Maloney, as well as getting LOIs from several others in the short time they had to work with. The focus here is on 2013, but Erik Bakich and company have already also secured several 2014 commits and one from 2015. Their success on the recruiting trail has led to talk about a faster-than-expected turnaround for the program. In a Q&A posted in November, B1G Baseball blogger Chris Webb got this response from Jordan Banfield, a Texas Rangers scout and coach of an Ann Arbor travel team:
CW: Under Bakich, Michigan has been extremely aggressive and in those early classes [meaning 2014 and 2015] they surged to the front of the conference. Being in that region, what have you noticed first-hand with the approach Michigan has led by recruiting coordinator Sean Kenny?
JB: Aggressive is certainly the right term. They locked up the top 2013 in Michigan within a couple weeks of being hired and haven’t stopped getting commits since. Having only been on campus for a few months now and with the sheer number of guys they’re getting it’s obvious those guys are really hitting the road.
I think the biggest difference I see with this staff is that they have three coaches who are always out seeing guys. When your entire staff recruits it makes an incredible difference in terms of how much ground you can cover. With the number of kids they’re bringing in from across the country and some 2012 guys who look like early contributors I think there’s the potential for a quick turnaround in Ann Arbor.
This post covers just the seven in-state signees as it proved unwieldy to include the entire class. The signees from outside Michigan will be covered in a separate post. Following the intro below are additional (mostly recent) links and quotes relating to the signees.
The In-State Signees and Their Rankings
Last month, Prep Baseball Report posted a nice summary of Michigan's in-state signees that includes a brief scouting report on each player and links to their PBR profile pages where further information is often available. Below is their list of the seven recruits with their PBR rankings. Michigan signed four of PBR's top 10 in-state prospects, including Jackson Lamb, who is ranked #9 overall by PBR (overall meaning the eight-state region that the site covers).
Brett Adcock LHP-6-1-190 (Bay City Western HS)
PBR State Rank: 3
Overall Rank: 31
Carmen Benedetti 1B/LHP- (Grosse Point South HS)
PBR State Rank: 20
Overall Rank: 150
Hector Gutierrez SS/RHP-6-0-165 (Detroit Western International HS)
PBR State Rank: 9
Overall Rank: 93
Jackson Lamb RHP/OF-6-6-196 (Temperance-Bedford, Mich. / Bedford HS)
PBR State Rank: 1
Overall Rank: 9
TJ Shook RHP-6-3-190 (University of Detroit Jesuit HS)
PBR State Rank: 5
Overall Rank: 38
Johnny Slater OF-6-1-170 (Southfield Lathrup HS)
PBR State Rank: 33
Harrison Wenson C-6-3-225 (University of Detroit Jesuit HS)
PBR State Rank: 17
Overall Rank: 192
Three of Michigan's signees figure in the top 10 of Michigan Baseball Prospects' 2013 rankings:
From MLive: Bay City Western's Brett Adcock signs with Michigan—includes a brief video; here's a quote from his coach:
Coach Tim McDonald: “It doesn’t take a baseball genius to figure out he’s very talented and very gifted in terms of natural ability. He’s dominating when things are right, and I’m sure that’s why Michigan is taking a chance on him. He has a huge upside.”
I couldn't find anything recent for Gutierrez, so instead here's a video of him pitching, from the Detroit Arsenal RBI site.
Mick McCabe wrote a nice feature on Lamb for the Free Press, focusing in part on his choosing baseball over basketball. Also, as the article mentions, Lamb is likely to be selected in the 2013 draft, so there's a possibility he won't end up playing for Michigan—maybe a good possibility given his choice of words when asked about it:
His shot at baseball is so good, he will likely be chosen in the baseball draft, but he might not be a high pick since signing to attend U-M.
"You can't really tell until it actually happens," Lamb said. "You don't want to get your hopes up too much and then you're disappointed. Worse case scenario, I go to Michigan, which is a great opportunity."
MLB Prospect Guide has Lamb ranked #223 on its list of the top 300 prospects for the 2013 draft. (Side note: Michigan junior outfielder Michael O'Neill is listed at #56.)
One last item on Lamb: In the B1G Baseball Q&A mentioned above, Banfield selected Lamb as one of the top Big Ten commits in the 2013 class:
CW: Not every standout participates in fall ball, Michigan commit Jackson Lamb, for example, was not in Jupiter. With all prospects on the table, as the fall concludes how would you rank the top five or so Big Ten commits out of the Great Lake states that you’ve seen?
JB: Assuming we’re talking strictly about the 2013 class, Farmer and Lamb to me are in a league of their own as prospects.
I talked quite a bit about Farmer earlier, Jackson Lamb is a guy that isn’t all that well known nationally because so much of his time has been spent playing basketball and not traveling the country attending showcases/tournaments. We’re talking about a talent that doesn’t come through the state of Michigan very often.
First off, he’s 6’7 and extremely athletic, a legitimate 2-way player in college, people don’t think guys that tall can hit, well I’m here to tell you he can. His swing is incredibly short for being as big as he is and he’ll be an above average defender in right. As a pro prospect he’s obviously a pitcher who is extremely raw right now but throws strikes and I have no problem projecting him to throw 95-98 with low effort. Everyone knows about Trey Ball who’s way more polished than Jackson but the tools really aren’t that far off. Presently Farmer is way closer to being a B1G contributor on the mound, but in the long run I can’t pass on Lamb.
Here's a quote from a U of D Jesuit signing day press release:
Shook did not disappoint in 2012 either. The number 5 ranked player in the state of Michigan according to Prep Baseball Report, Shook was named to the All League and All District teams in 2012.“I am blessed to have the opportunity to be a student-athlete at the University of Michigan. It has always been a dream of mine to play at a high level Division I university. I am really looking forward to playing under Coach Bakich and the rest of his staff.” Shook adds, “Go Blue!”
A MIPrepZone signing day article features a brief video and this:
“I’m very excited to become a Michigan Wolverine,” said Slater after penning his letter of intent. “I focused on improving my skills every year since I was a freshman and that focus paid off. I’ve made a big jump in my play and I intend to keep making further jumps over the next year, prior to getting up to Ann Arbor.”
Slaters’ versatility might be his most appealing attribute. A smooth and savvy lefty, Slater is a specimen, terrorizing opponents whether pitching, hitting, running the base paths or on defense in centerfield.
Last season, he sported a whopping .576 batting average.
Darren Mosley, the Chargers’ skipper, can’t say enough about his star player.
“Johnny is a great kid, a great baseball player and a great student, what more can you ask for?,” he said. “He’s incredibly humble and he leads by example. We’ve put a lot of pressure on him these past couple of seasons and he’s always delivered.”
Wenson, a teammate of Shook at U of D Jesuit, also figured in the press release linked above:
Wenson is coming off an All-State season, as well as being named to the Dream Team in 2012, after hitting over .400 during the spring.“I chose the University of Michigan because I have grown up in a Michigan house. My father played baseball there and I am proud to carry on that tradition,” Wenson said. “I feel honored to play at such an elite university and am excited to learn under Coach Bakich and his staff.”
Wenson's father, Paul Wenson, played baseball at Michigan in 1985–86 before spending three years in the Detroit Tigers minor-league system, including playing for the Mud Hens for part of the 1989 season (see his Baseball-Reference.com page).
In just 35 days, the Michigan baseball team will begin its 2013 campaign at Cal. Below are a few features and news items from the last several weeks, during the run-up to Opening Day. These are non-recruiting in nature—I'm planning to post a recruiting update in the near future.
Top 10 College Coaches under Age 40
Baseball America released this top 10 list earlier this month, with Erik Bakich landing at #3:
3. Erik Bakich, Michigan (Age: 35)
The Skinny: The uncommonly personable Bakich helped build Vanderbilt into a national power through his tireless recruiting efforts, then helped Maryland's program take a step forward during his three-year stint as head coach before leaving for Michigan this summer.
What They're Saying: "He's a younger guy, and the way he gets after it, the work ethic, the game management—I was impressed by that, even at Maryland in a tough situation with the ACC. And I was impressed with the communication skills. I think he relates well to people."
—An AL crosschecker
College Baseball Daily Feature
Courtney Swift interviewed Bakich and Patrick Biondi for a piece from late December titled New Coach, New Philosophy at Michigan. The feature offers some good insight and information from the team's fall practice. Some insight into the new coach from Biondi:
Biondi spoke of the new style in practice, but how the coaching staff still kept it fun. “We definitely worked our butts off in the fall but he doesn’t over do it to the point where you don’t want to be in practice.” The senior said the team worked a lot on mental toughness. “We do some tough conditioning stuff,” he said. “But the way he [head coach Erik Bakich] presents it makes it more fun.”
And here's an early glimpse into some of the freshmen who made early impressions:
Bakich saw some bright spots in pitching during the fall, but said nothing was set in terms of the Wolverines’ rotation. Two freshmen pitchers that separated themselves include Cam Wysocki a righty out of Ada, Michigan and southpaw Evan Hill from Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.
Other young guys who played well in the fall are Travis Maezes, Jacob Cronenworth, and Jack Sexton. Bakich mentioned the three freshmen showing some talent on the field at position spots. Matthew Dacey, another freshman, also proved himself in fall ball. “Dacey is a strong physical kid with power in a left-handed swing, Bakich said. “He’ll see action early on.”
The team suffered a blow in December, when sophomore outfielder Will Drake decided to transfer, later choosing Cincinnati as his destination. B1G Baseball blogger Chris Webb (in the first linked item above) comments:
As Michigan enters a new era under Erik Bakich, it was expected for Drake to be within a 1-5 with Biondi, O’Neill, freshman Travis Maezes and junior Brett Winger that was as talented as any lineup-leading quintet in the conference.
For a program that has a Big Ten-leading 35 conference championships, but coming off of consecutive tenth place finishes, the rebuilding job for Bakich is now a little more difficult.
In another piece of pessimism about Michigan's prospects for the 2013 season, Webb reported in this post on Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's projected order of finish for the Big Ten, which showed Michigan in 10th place yet again.
O'Neill #77 in the Country
Ending on a more positive note, College Baseball Daily ranked junior outfielder Michael O'Neill as the #77 player in the country for 2013.
As a sophomore in 2012, he led Michigan with a .327 batting average, .525 slugging percentage and 12 doubles. He was also 5th in the Big Ten in stolen bases with 19 and sixth in slugging percentage.
He spent the summer of 2012 in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Falmouth Commodores where he played in 44 games. He finished the summer with a .263 average with five homers and 18 RBI.