OMAHA, Neb. – The Michigan baseball team is having a good time.
They’re having so much fun, in fact, that sophomore center fielder Jesse Franklin has dubbed the ballpark where they’ve been playing their games “TD AmeriPlayground.”
No other Wolverine, perhaps, is having more fun than Christan Bullock. The junior left fielder made some starts early in the season, including two against Binghamton on opening weekend as well as all three games at The Citadel. After some struggles, though, Michigan coach Erik Bakich replaced him, putting redshirt senior Miles Lewis in left field instead.
But as the Wolverines have continued to fight for their season, coming up with clutch victories when they needed them most – and when they seemed least likely – Bullock has been at the center of it all. He’s been a regular starter since late May and has played a key role in several of those clutch victories.
He had three hits and scored three runs in Michigan’s defeat of Nebraska on May 25 in the Big Ten Tournament. In the two victories over Creighton in the regional, Bullock combined for a single, a double, and a home run as well as three walks and another run scored. And in the Wolverines’ win-or-go-home victory over No. 1 UCLA in the Super Regional, Bullock had a walk, a double, a triple, two runs and a stolen base.
Not too shabby.
“It’s exciting just to have the opportunity to do things that help the team win,” Bullock said. “I just want to play for my brothers.”
As far as raw athletic ability goes, Bullock is, as Bakich puts it, “unbelievable.” He’s shown flashes of power-hitting potential and stellar defensive ability at times throughout the season. Most importantly, he’s the team’s fastest baserunner, something that’s resulted in him being used as a pinch runner in many situations. Not to mention, he's compiled 13 stolen bases on the season.
“He’s a gamechanger with his speed,” Bakich said. “He can turn a walk into a triple within a few pitches. He’s one of those guys that when he puts it all together, I think he’s got a chance to be one of the more dynamic, explosive players, not only in the conference, but maybe in the country. I think he’s got an incredible toolset.”
For Bullock, the bigger issue has been consistency. Harnessing that speed. Finding a way to control that power-hitting and being able to tap it when needed. The difference-maker for Bullock during this time of the season – and what’s helped him make the jump back into the starting nine – is discipline. He's beginning to understand the importance of not just the games, but the practices, the meetings, the training sessions. He's dedicated to the team, not just in the big moments, but in every moment.
“Consistency is just his key to his success,” Bakich said. “We’ve worked really hard on that consistency, starting in the training sessions and carrying over into the games. He’s always been a gamer, where he wants to turn it on in the game. As he’s matured in our program, he’s understood the importance of all the little things, the attention to detail.”
Now, Bullock is finally seeing the payoff of that discipline, that dedication. On the highest stage in college baseball – one of the biggest in collegiate athletics – he’s coming up huge for the Wolverines with over-the-shoulder catches, stolen bases and clutch hits in tense moments.
“Being consistent always pays off,” Bullock said. “I’m just trying to do anything to help win a game.”