Well, it’s that time of year when all the sports have wrapped up their seasons. Now begins the grueling crawl through the offseason, and all there’s left to do is assign awards to the best and brightest in their field.
For the Michigan baseball team, that means seeing some of their young stars get chosen for the coveted All-American teams.
Two Wolverine freshmen garnered national recognition by syndicated collegiate baseball publications and found themselves among the greatest of their peers on the Freshman All-American teams lists. Those two players are slugger Jesse Franklin and left-hander Ben Dragani.
Franklin and Dragani were both selected to be on D1 Baseball’s second Freshman All-American team while Franklin additionally landed a spot on Baseball America’s second Freshman All-American team.
After a stellar first year on the mound, Dragani earned the first of what could well be numerous awards as he looks to dominate for Michigan in the years to come.
Dragani began his year like nearly all freshman in college baseball — sitting quietly in the dugout waiting for his number to be called. He started off his career as a reliever, and his dominance quickly showed.
“My hopes were to pitch a good amount whether it be in the bullpen or starter, whatever,” Dragani said. “I just wanted to get on the mound and pitch, compete and get some innings and kind of have that first year of college.
While struggling a bit in his first start, Dragani quickly made the necessary adjustments and began slicing through late-game competition. His command of the strike zone caught the eye of Michigan coach Erik Bakich, and after an injury to starter Alec Rennard, Dragani saw himself in the starting rotation.
When all was said and done, Dragani had proven himself to be the Wolverines’ starter of the future and ended his first year with the lowest earned-run average of any weekend starter at 2.76.
After striking out 54 batters through 75 innings and racking up six wins, Dragani earned the commendation.
Franklin has a similar story, as he began the year incredibly sluggish like nearly all of the freshman class and finished with a brazen display of dominance.
Over the season, Franklin led the team with ten home runs, 47 runs-batted in and a .588 slugging percentage. The slugger also finished year one with a .327 batting average and a .379 on-base percentage.
Once Franklin adjusted to college ball, there was no stopping him. Every at-bat seemed like an immense opportunity for Michigan and Franklin always seemed to be the offensive catalyst for the Wolverines, particularly throughout their run in the Big Ten Tournament.
“He really showed us — myself, the coaches, his teammates — a lot when he started off the season very poorly,” Bakich said. “He had adversity for the first time and that’s where you find out a little bit about yourself.
“He was not only working on his swing and his defense, but he’s working on his speed, he’s out pushing sleds, he’s just very driven, very driven kid to succeed. He showed everybody a lot with that work ethic and that consistency, and he just has a drive to be great.”
If current trends continue, these two will likely see their names in the headlines yet again as they move beyond the label of “Freshman,” and look to be leaders and regular contributors to a successful Michigan program.