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.
Michigan baseball received, to my knowledge, their second commitment from the freshman class of 2011-12 in Fairfield, OH centerfielder Will Drake. Drake picked Michigan over Cincinnati and UNC-Asheville.
Drake, a 6-foot-1, 165-pound speedy center fielder, verbally committed to the University of Michigan on Monday, June 28, a day after he visited the campus […]
“When I got to Michigan it was a no-brainer for me,” Drake said. “They’re the fourth winningest program in college baseball history. I was surrounded by great coaches and a great facility. I really loved it up there.”
Drake called Michigan coach Rich Maloney on Monday and accepted a 50 percent scholarship offer. […]
Drake was a first-team, All-Greater Miami Conference selection as a junior after hitting .379 with a home run and 23 RBIs. He also had 13 stolen bases.
Drake is another speed outfielder, and may be looking to take over for current Michigan centerfielder Patrick Biondi if Biondi is a 3-and-done, a reasonable assumption based on his freshman year.
Drake is the second commitment in this class that I've seen, and he's also the second outfielder of the class with Zach Fish. Michigan is VERY light in outfielders right now, with only Biondi being a true outfielder returning from last year's team. The remaining two outfield slots next year are up for grabs between Kevin Krantz (former short stop), Garrett Stephens (former first baseman and likely DH/1B next season), Tyler Mills (pitcher), and two true freshmen in Adam Robinson and Michael O'Neill.
Drake will add immediate depth his freshman year, but at this point, I'm not sure he'll be a contributor until at least his red shirt freshman season. His overall numbers appear behind Zach Fish, but Drake still has time to grow and develop.
(HT: TomVH for the tip)