With the Michigan baseball season at an end, it’s time to reflect back on the highs and lows of the year.

The Wolverines finished second to last in the Big Ten, just above Northwestern. It’s been a troublesome stretch with injuries and inconsistencies.

The Wolverines found a streak of success at the start of the nonconference schedule, winning five of their first seven games. But as the season progressed, they tacked on the losses and fell from the charts.

Looking back on the last three months of play, there have been ups and downs that may or may not indicate why Michigan finished so far back.

Best Wins: Coastal Carolina on May 9, Purdue on May 13 and Nebraska on May 18

When asked about the highlights of the season, former Michigan coach Rich Maloney listed the three most recent wins against hot-hitting teams.

It was nearly expected that the Wolverines would drop every contest to the Chanticleers, 15th-ranked Boilermakers and Cornhuskers — all crammed into the last two weeks of play.

But Michigan captured a trio of close wins, starting with a midweek series split with Coastal Carolina. The Wolverines had lost three-straight matchups to the Chanticleers this season before freshman right-hander Matt Ogden threw five scoreless innings with just one hit, winning, 5-2.

The team hoped to carry the confidence into West Lafayette against Purdue. Michigan fell in the first two games, giving the Boilermakers at least a share of the Big Ten title. But the Wolverines bounced back in the final outing with junior right-hander Ben Ballantine’s outstanding command of the strike zone, claiming the 4-3 win.

Though Michigan fell in the rubber match against Nebraska, senior right-hander Brandon Sinnery and late hit production led the team to a well-deserved, 6-5 win.

Best Loss: LSU on March 10

Sophomore right fielder Michael O’Neill calls it a positive and a negative. Though it’s never ideal to lose, something good came out of the 6-4 loss at Louisiana State.

The atmosphere of the Alex Box Stadium was almost overwhelming, but the Wolverines came close to avenging their previous shutout loss to the then-13th-ranked Tigers. It was tied at three in the fifth inning, but LSU scored a triplet of runs in the seventh frame. Nevertheless, Michigan remains satisfied with its efforts against the esteemed team.

Injury List: Michael O’Neill, Will Drake, Kolby Wood, Derek Dennis, Travis Smith and Bobby Brosnahan

The injuries have been the demise of the Wolverines for the past two years. Their roster kept thinning as they went deeper into Big Ten play, and they watched their chance of making the conference tournament slip away game by game.

O’Neill suffered a stress fracture in his fourth metacarpal on a diving catch against Central Michigan. He missed 15 games, including four conference series, but his return gave the team a lift at Iowa. The team won its first series in month and O’Neill went 7-for-15 against the Hawkeyes with three RBIs and three runs.

Freshman left-fielder Will Drake was running down the first-base line against Toledo on April 11 when his quadricep sent him to the disabled list for eight games. But he came back as a pinch hitter and designated hitter for a small handful of at-bats, posting only one hit — he missed the last six outings of the season.

O’Neill and Drake were the team’s top hitters, leading the Big Ten in multiple offensive categories. Even with the absence, the duo notched 96 hits, 52 RBIs and 58 runs on the season.

Fifth year senior right-handers Kolby Wood and Travis Smith have battled injuries for the past two seasons — combining for just 12 innings — but before their setbacks, they hurled a total of 147 strikeouts.

In 2009, junior shortstop Derek Dennis was selected in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. But two separate injuries left him unable to contribute much in the past two years. He made just eight game appearances this season, two of which were as a pinch runner while his hand remained in a cast.

Redshirt junior left-hander Bobby Brosnahan had a strong arm throughout nonconference action. But after 1.1 innings against Minnesota, he had given up eight earned runs on ten hits, and his shoulder wasn’t feeling quite right. He recuperated over the next four Big Ten series and came back on monitored pitch count. In his final nine frames of work, he gave up only one earned run.

With a healthy O’Neill, Drake, Dennis and Brosnahan returning next season, Michigan hopes to ignite its game with offensive damage at the plate and solid backup on the mound.

Offensive Weapon: Michael O’Neill

Coming off the disabled list, O’Neill ended the year leading the team with a .327 batting average. He’s reliable in every facet of the game — Maloney recognized his ability to steal bases, knock in runs, get on base and make diving plays. Without him, the Wolverines struggled to find a replacement that could perform up to his level.

Defensive Weapon: John Lorenz

Senior third baseman John Lorenz has a good range of mobility and quick reflexes in the hot corner. He lays himself out, turns double plays and recorded his 200th career start in the rubber match against the Cornhuskers. Maloney said one of highlights of the year was watching Lorenz play a solid third base.

Brightest Future: Kevin White and Will Drake

Freshman Kevin White was labeled and recruited as a catcher, but he didn’t see any time behind the plate until the back end of the season. But when injuries struck, he was thrown into the lineup and immediately swung a hot bat. Since April 21, he tallied hits in all but two games.

Before his injury, Drake looked like a very promising asset to the team. He filed into the batting order between junior center fielder Patrick Biondi and O’Neill, and the trio immediately demonstrated its abilities. Drake delivered 12 multi-hit games in the first two months of his rookie campaign, including a 6-for-6 perfect outing against Chicago State.

Hardest to Replace: Brandon Sinnery

The senior right-hander has been the core of the defense as the ace for two-straight years. He peaked at the right time during the Big Ten schedule and last weekend became just the sixth Wolverine to reach 100 innings in a single season.

Sinnery earned the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week title twice following complete-game shutouts against Illinois and Iowa in the last two years. He’s been a consistent hurler and posted the third lowest ERA in the conference last year. His contribution was oftentimes the only reliable arm in the bullpen, and an arm like his is hard to come by.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.