Captains are supposed to be the leaders of their respective teams, and a lot of times, that includes performing among the best on the playing field.
But senior catcher Chris Berset is taking that notion to a whole new level with his play in 2010.
The Vienna, Virginia native has been a rock behind the plate and a force in the batter’s box. Berset has thrown out more runners attempting to steal than any catcher in the Big Ten, nabbing 20 of 43, six more than his closest competitor, and is also tops with five pickoffs.
But it’s his bat that has been the real revelation. Berset leads the conference with a .480 OBP, is fourth in both batting average (.405) and hits (60), and his four home runs and 36 RBI are among the leaders for Michigan.
And despite a capable catching from designated hitter sophomore Coley Crank, Berset has yet to take a day off, starting all 39 games to date. For coach Rich Maloney, the co-captain’s impact on the team is clear.
“He’s been absolutely marvelous and really our team MVP up to this point, barring none,” Maloney said after the Wolverines’ 13-1 win over Notre Dame in South Bend on April 21st. “No question.”
It’s certainly been a season to remember for Berset, who just had his career-best (and the team’s best) hitting streak snapped at 21 games in the 5-2 loss to Iowa last Friday. It’s no surprise the Wolverines dropped that game, because as their senior catcher goes, they go.
Berset was thrown into the fire early in his career, starting 24 games his freshman year and 37 the next. He entered 2009 as the starter but missed time with injuries, only playing 31 games.
But despite his extensive experience throughout his career in Ann Arbor, with a career batting average of .277, he had never performed the way he has this year, leading the team to a first-place tie in the Big Ten.
Though he didn’t expect the recent breakout, Maloney said he did feel like Berset had the potential to be one of the better catchers in the NCAA this year. The catcher himself is more modest, and isn’t letting his success get to his head.
“I can’t say I did (expect success), but to just go through it has just been awesome,” Berset said. “I’ve been blessed this year. I just got to keep it going and not think about it, just keep going with my approach. It feels good. If you just go out there and do your job, that’s all you can do. (All the attention) is nice, but … winning bal games is a lot better than that.”
Berset was recently named to the Bench Award watch list, the trophy named after MLB Hall of Fame backstop Johnny Bench that is handed out to the best college catcher every season.
Past winners include current major leaguers Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Garko and Jeff Clement. It says a lot to be placed in a category with so many elite college catchers, but Berset’s play this season easily warrants it.
“I don’t know what other (catchers) are doing, but the year he’s having, he shouldn’t take a backseat to too many people, I don’t think,” Maloney said.”