Michigan baseball to welcome 16 players in 2014

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By Alex Taylor, Daily Sports Writer
Published July 23, 2013

In his inaugural season at the helm of Michigan baseball, coach Erik Bakich had many firsts: his first game, his first win and even his first postseason appearance. But none of those firsts will be more important or as long-lasting as his first recruiting class will be.

Utilizing a young roster last year, Michigan will continue the youth movement with an influx of new recruits. These recruits will be looked to as Michigan attempts to return to the Big Ten tournament and beyond.

Though the Wolverines lose just four players from last year’s roster (junior outfielder Michael O’Neill and senior Patrick Biondi to the MLB draft and right-handed pitchers Kyle Clark and Chad Jasman to graduation), Michigan will welcome 16 new players on campus.

Bakich, who recruited seven athletes from the state of Michigan, put an emphasis on keeping the best local talent in the state based on a large number of recruits and the quality of players. In addition to getting commitments from both of the Mr. Baseballs in the state, Bakich also picked up commitments from several in-state players who were selected in the MLB draft.

Jackson Lamb, a co-Mr. Baseball from Temperance, is the likeliest recruit to make an instant impact for the Wolverines. A 6-foot-6 pitcher/outfielder, Lamb was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 20th round of the MLB draft, but reportedly turned down a contract that offered him third-round money to attend Michigan. Lamb, who has been clocked at 95 mph from the mound, carried a 1.35 ERA while also hitting at a .515 clip with 42 RBI during his senior year of high school.

Lamb’s cohort for Mr. Baseball, Carmen Benedetti of Grosse Pointe Farms, should also make an early impact on the field. A left-handed first baseman, Benedetti was named a Louisville Slugger All-American, hitting .520 with 35 RBI in his senior year.

Two more key cogs of the class will be Hector Gutierrez of Detroit and Johnny Slater of Southfield. Gutierrez, who was named to the All-State Dream Team playing for Detroit Western, will be the first PSL student-athlete to receive a scholarship to play baseball at the University of Michigan since 1985. Additionally, Gutierrez will be the first member of his extended family to attend any college at all. Slater, a left-handed pitcher/outfielder, was also named to the All-State Dream Team his senior year. The Atlanta Braves selected Slater in the 31st round of the MLB draft.

Rounding out the in-state recruits are right-handed pitcher T.J. Shook from Bloomfield, left-handed pitcher Brett Adcock from Kawkawlin and catcher Harrison Wenson from Walled Lake.

In addition to keeping local talent in the state of Michigan, the Wolverines were also able to persuade several heralded out-of-state recruits to bring their talents to Ann Arbor. Ethan Cohen from Thousand Oaks, CA and Nick Kowalczuk of Oak Park, IL are two of the more impressive recruits who could earn some playing time their freshman year. Cohen, an outfielder, has above-average athleticism to go along with very good arm strength. A left-handed hitter, Cohen should be able to compete right away for an outfield spot. Kowalczuk, a power-hitting first basemen, will look to provide stability and production to Michigan’s lineup, something that was at times lacking last season.

Another notable recruit is Ramsey Romano from El Cajon, CA. A true shortstop, Romano can also play the outfield, something he may be asked to do with rising sophomore Travis Maezes having the starting shortstop position all but locked up after a stellar freshman campaign. Romano was drafted in the 35th round in the MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs.

Rounding out the rest of the Wolverines recruiting class is Kendall Patrick of Mitchell, SD, Mac Lozer of Indianapolis, IN, Trey Miller of Lexington, KY, Keith Lehmann of Western Spring, IL, Jackson Glines of Coarsegold, CA and Jason Deitrich of Garden Grove, CA.

What remains to be seen, however, is just how the Wolverines will manage the number of players on their roster. As of now, with just four players from last year’s roster leaving, Michigan will be well over the 35-man roster limit under NCAA rules.

Barring an unsuspected de-commit by a recruit or an unforeseen transfer from a current player, Michigan will begin fall practices with 46 members: 30 returning players and 16 recruits. A team has until the day before their first scheduled game to declare its final roster of 35 players.

For Michigan, this means that the players and recruits alike will not only be battling for starting positions throughout fall practices and winter workouts, but also for a spot on the final roster.