While many Michigan students will be resting over spring break, the Michigan baseball team be competing at a tournament in Riverside, Calif. The first pitch will be thrown on Friday when the Wolverines take on Oregon State to start their season.
Michigan interim coach Chris Harrison is not quite sure what the competition will be like, although he understands that some of these teams will have an advantage, as they will have some games under their belt. Michigan has not played any games due to the unfriendly Midwestern weather, a phenomenon that West Coast teams rarely have to worry about.
But going in “dry” does not discourage Harrison. In addition to his philosophy of worrying about his own team, Harrison sees this trip as an opportunity to gauge where his squad stands among other teams around the nation.
“We just want to play good ball, and we want to execute and see the things we need to work on,” Harrison said.
He does not foresee any problems keeping his team focused and energized during this 10-day roadtrip.
“I don”t think it”s a problem because they have been working for a long time and they”re excited to play,” Harrison said.
He is also concerned with physical fatigue setting in over the nine-game stretch.
“I think we are deep enough this year where we”ll be able to have some different lineups and be able to keep guys fresh on the trip,” Harrison said.
Contributing to Michigan”s depth will be its improved pitching. The Wolverines enter this season with a quality four-man rotation. This will allow for ample rest among the starters over the course of the lengthy season.
In addition to a solid rotation, every competitive team must have a dependable closer. Last season, senior Jeff Trzos was the one responsible for driving the nail into the opposition”s coffin in the final inning. But this season, Trzos will accompany juniors Tim Leveque and Rich Hill and senior Bobby Korecky in the starting rotation, as the coaching staff wants its younger pitchers to close out the games.
Although many logistical details need to be worked out, the Wolverines do not see 2002 as a rebuilding season. Despite being a predominately sophomore and junior group, this season”s team is quite experienced.
“Most of the time in a club, when a guy is a freshman, he doesn”t play much. As a sophomore, he”s fighting for a position. And the junior has (the starting spot).”
But Harrison praises Brock Koman, Gino Lollio, Blake Ruthowski, and Jordan Cantalamessa. “They have all played a lot of innings as freshman and sophomores.” Because of the teams extensive early experience on the diamond at the collegiate level, this is anything but a rebuilding season. “We are not looking at rebuilding season. This is a year that these guys have been playing a couple years for. We are expecting to play well,” Harrison affirmed.
Coach Harrison is excited to be the Wolverine”s new skipper after Coach Geoff Zahn resigned as Michigan”s manager after a .500 season (10-14 Big Ten, 28-28 overall). Because falling inches short in a well-played, 3-2 game to Minnesota at the Big Ten Tournament last season, Harrison and company are encouraged with what they can become this year. In addition, strong summer league experience for many Wolverines has also boosted the team”s confidence.
Although Coach Harrison chuckles at the thought of an NCAA Championship, he says that the concentration of the team is to play good ball with solid defense and pitching.
The team”s realistic goal for the 2002 season is the Big Ten Championship. But, this goal will be difficult to attain. In the seven seasons that Harrison has been a apart of the ball club, the Big Ten has been an even, tough league. “There isn”t a gap between the sixth-place team and ninth-place team.”
Knowing the level of play must remain at a high throughout the season to achieve this goal, Harrison wants to fill Fischer Stadium. If students come, he promises, “they”ll see some good baseball.”