While I have been covering other Olympic sports here at mgoblog, my major focus is unmistakably baseball. So with fall ball coming up over the next few weeks, including a fall game against the Ontario Blue Jays of the Premier Baseball League of Ontario (an upper level summer ball league of Canada), I'll be posting a few diaries with baseball related content.
Today's is a break down of the newly released 2010 Michigan baseball schedule. In this year's schedule, two things stood out to me. First, this schedule is tough. Unlike some other BigTen baseball teams, Michigan is going out of its way to schedule real opponents.
Second, our big name weekend series is at North Carolina. UNC is a great program that has had great success in reaching Omaha, including each of the last three seasons. If Michigan takes even one game here, we'll be making national headlines in the baseball world. Add a trip to play two against Coastal Carolina, and you have Michigan with a pretty good chance to gain some major respect.
The last thing that jumps out to me is we are playing all nine conference opponents (Wisconsin dropped baseball in the early 90s). The BigTen has only 8 week conference seasons, allowing one team to be skipped over. This year, the team we were supposed to miss was Michigan State, but instead of dropping them from the schedule, Michigan has scheduled the Spartans for a home-and-home mid-week series. Those two games will not count toward the conference standings.
As far as the nonconference, those previously mentioned match ups against UNC and Coastal Carolina aren't the only bright spots. The BigEast/BigTen Challenge (make your spring break plans now!) also has Michigan playing quality opponents. Michigan will face Louisville in the season opener, and it could very well be against a ranked Cardinal squad. After Louisville, Michigan will face St. John's and South Florida. St. John's isn't quite as strong as they were two years ago, but South Florida is picked to finish well in the BigEast, possibly dethroning Louisville.
Michigan opens the year at Texas Tech (also a potential spring break destination, but prepare to be massively disappointed), playing Maine twice, then the Red Raiders twice. Texas Tech is a middle of the road Big12 team, which places them probably in the top 3-4 teams in the BigTen.
From Coach Maloney (via MGoBlue):
I certainly think this is the most challenge schedule we have had in my time at Michigan," Maloney said. "We have the privilege of playing against some really top-notch schools from top-notch conferences. Texas Tech is on the rise in the Big 12, Coastal Carolina is one of the winningest teams over the last five years in college baseball and North Carolina is a tremendous challenge, especially at their ballpark.
Michigan has their proposed, I say this because there's a good chance it will be snowed or rained out as it does almost every year, against IPFW from March 26-28. The BigTen opener will be on the road this year at Indiana, and the home BigTen opener will be the following week against Purdue. The home conference schedule includes those Boilermakers, Iowa, potential favorite Ohio State, and a dark horse BigTen contender Northwestern.
Midweek games including the aforementioned MSU series, as well as the usual home-and-home with Notre Dame, which almost always finds a way to get rained out on Tuesday, meaning we play a double header at Notre Dame on Wednesday. I'm making my prediction now that it'll happen again.
Speaking of new scheduling traditions, the annual scrimmage with the New York Mets is March 21 in Port St. Lucie. Here's hoping we can pull off the upset we've been so close to the last few seasons.
Giving the schedule a quick once over, my initial, premature, probably a bit overly optimistic when I think about our starting pitching staff, gut feeling has a record around 37-17, 15-9 in the BigTen. This will be close to earning us a spot in the NCAA, with a win over UNC and/or Coastal Carolina, it would greatly improve our odds.
As far as the BigTen Tournament, the site still hasn't been announced. According to my Buckeye counterpart at TheBuckeyeNine, the coaches just met this last week, and the conference heads will meet later this month. This is welcome news as the rumor I heard circulating around was the Tournament was going to be in Columbus again this year. Bleh. So this is good news.