Standouts of the 2019 Michigan baseball team
As the baseball team’s 2019 season comes to a close, and Michigan’s magical run through the postseason comes to an end, the Daily presents these awards to members of Team 153 that stood out over the course of the season.
Most Valuable Player: Jordan Brewer
This one needs little explanation. Brewer was the backbone of this team all season. Offensively, he led the team in batting average, at a .329 clip on the season (even after a postseason slump), and slugging, with a slugging percentage of .557. He stole 25 bases in 29 attempts, the most on the team, and notched 59 RBI, second-highest of the Wolverines.
Defensively, Brewer had what Michigan coach Erik Bakich called his “explosive” raw athletic potential on display all season, throwing runners out at third base from deep right field while robbing hits left and right on the warning track. He notched 12 outfield assists on the season.
He earned first-team All American Honors from the College Baseball Foundation as well as first-team All-Big Ten and Big Ten Conference Player of the Year.
Clutch Genes: Tommy Henry
Henry was Michigan’s projected ace heading into the 2019 season and performed as such during much of the first half of the season, but nagging bicep tendonitis saw him struggle with his consistency down the stretch.
When it mattered most, though, the junior left-hander was practically untouchable.
In Michigan’s win-or-go-home contest against No. 1 UCLA in Game 3 of the super-regional, a flu-ridden Henry pitched seven dominant innings, earning the win in the victory that sent Michigan to the College World Series for the first time in 35 years.
In his first College World Series start, he tossed a 100-pitch complete-game shutout of Florida State in what Florida State coaching legend Mike Martin described as a “masterpiece.”
And in Game 1 of the College World Series Finals, he tossed 8.1 dominant innings in Michigan’s only victory against Vanderbilt.
Whether Henry can hold onto the lights-out performance he demonstrated this postseason remains to be seen. But when the Wolverines needed a win, there’s a reason they turned to Tommy Henry.
Breakout Player: Jeff Criswell
Criswell was solid out of the bullpen last year, but he really came into his own this season when he transitioned to a starting role. He finished the season with the lowest earned run average of Michigan’s three regular starters at 2.72 over 17 starts and 106 innings.
He and pitching coach Chris Fetter spent the entire offseason working on the transition back to the starting role in which Criswell was so effective in high school, earning him first-team all-region honors from Rawlings Perfect Game his senior year in 2017. He and Fetter worked mainly on smoothing out his pitching motion and using his legs for more power and endurance.
Their hard work paid off in spades. Criswell developed his fastball to the point that Fetter described it as “major league” caliber. He also saw major growth with his two other pitches and leaps in his control and placement, as was on display in his Apr. 13 start at Ohio State, the Wolverines’ lone victory over the Buckeyes this season.
Criswell was also lights-out in relief throughout much of the postseason, as Bakich often used him in high-leverage situations to account for an often-leaky bullpen.
Best Single-Game Performance: Jimmy Kerr against Texas Tech on June 21
For three years, Kerr was a non-starter with the occasional bright spot. But he was so productive offensively in 2019 that he almost took Criswell’s title as Breakout Player. But unlike Criswell, Kerr found his best success in single-game bursts.
Most notable was his four-for-four day against Texas Tech. Kerr was involved in almost half of Michigan’s scoring plays, helping the Wolverines notch seven of their 15 runs that day. Kerr himself scored four runs, had three RBIs, two home runs, a double and a single.
Kerr also gets an honorable mention in this category for a five-for-five day against Michigan State on March 30 in which he hit two home runs, two doubles and a single, scoring five runs on the day in Michigan’s 16-2 victory over the Spartans.