Nearly two weeks after sweeping the Great Lakes Regional to advance to the NCBA World Series for the first time in program history, the Michigan club baseball team isn’t quite on top of the world.
UC-Santa Barbara 27-3
When: Friday 7 P.M.
Where: Golden Field, Columbus, Geo.
The Wolverines (13-5 overall) have one last mountain to climb in the journey for their first national title. But that trek begins with a clash with the nation’s top-ranked team — UC-Santa Barbara — on Friday in the first round of World Series competition in Columbus, Ga.
The Michigan squad, which has been in existence since 2004, beat UW-Milwaukee, Indiana and Miami (Ohio) in Huntingburg, Ind. to earn the Wolverines’ first bid to the annual finale in Columbus.
“For the team, obviously, it’s a very big accomplishment because of all the work we put in during the year,” senior first baseman and team president Zack Ehrmann said. “Combining that with school, it’s very rewarding to see everybody’s time pay off.”
The Wolverines enter the World Series as the No. 8 seed in the eight-team field, facing the top-ranked Gauchos (27-3) — Michigan’s first opponent west of Milwaukee.
After beginning the 2011 campaign with a pair of one-run losses to Western Michigan, the Wolverines rebounded with a 13-3 stretch, highlighted by a five-game win streak to finish the season.
“Every game that we won we needed have, especially getting into the regionals,” Ehrmann said. “We’re playing very well right now and we’re very loose out there, and it’s something that definitely serves as an advantage for us.
“We’re coming in with a lot of confidence, and I think that will be surprising to some people, being the No. 8 seed.”
The 28-man roster holds its home games at Dexter High School and, like the entire battery of Michigan club teams, is primarily self-financed, aside from some funds provided by the Department of Recreational Sports.
But for fourth-year seniors Ehrmann and catcher Aaron Sochacki, the 13-hour drive to Georgia is the perfect way to finish their careers as non-scholarship athletes.
“From an individual’s standpoint, I’m not going to be playing baseball after this year, so it’s very nice to end it this way,” Ehrmann said. “It’s been a fantastic opportunity for me to do what I love, and what all the other guys on the team love, which is just to play baseball as much as we can.
Added Sochacki: “To go out on my baseball career with this accomplishment is great. But winning a couple games to make it a little way into the tournament would mean a lot, especially from a program standpoint.”
But the Wolverines aren’t content with just arriving at the World Series in Columbus — they’ve got a little bit of unfinished business.
Michigan and UC-Santa Barbara will battle at 7 p.m. on Friday at Golden Park, with a live radio broadcast and stat-tracker available on the NCBA World Series website.
“There’s a chance that (UC-Santa Barbara) and other teams might underestimate our ability, but our pitching has been very good lately, and that’s what you need to win ballgames,” Ehrmann said. “They’re going to be a very good opponent, but we also know we can hang with them for nine innings.”