June 20, 2005
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Even Sean Salisbury would have a tough time
breaking this season down - but let's try.
Michigan opened its season with a pair of
victories over Georgia and North Carolina, two
teams boasting top-10 rankings. Heading into
their conference schedule, the Wolverines were
14-3 and ranked No. 19 in the nation.
Just in case you're not a Michigan baseball
buff, we're talking about the same team with
one NCAA tournament berth in the previous 15
years - not to mention three coaches in the
But this was the year. With Jim Brauer,
Michael Penn and Derek Feldkamp, the pitching
was stacked. Kyle Bohm, Matt Butler and Chris
Getz comprised a potent lineup. And third-year
head coach Rich Maloney was increasing his
win totals each season. Collegiate Baseball
took notice and ranked Michigan 35th in its
Fabulous 40 preseason poll - the Wolverines'
first preseason recognition since 1998, which
was quickly justified. After a successful trip
through the South, Michigan came back up
north, completing two consecutive weekend
sweeps, including the home-opening series
The Wolverines felt that their early success
should translate into a conference title, and for
good reason. If they can beat teams like Geor-
gia, North Carolina and Florida Atlantic, they
should glide through the mediocre Big Ten, the
But the transitive property did not hold up. In
one week, Michigan went from broom to dust,
getting swept by Minnesota in its first conference
series. And if you thought it was a fluke - three
of the four losses were by a combined five runs -
you probably thought twice after the next series
In the first game, the Wolverines built an 11-3 lead
following a five-run seventh inning. But in Iowa's
next at-bat, Michigan took out the batting cage and
L-screens. The Hawkeyes tallied 10 runs on 10 bona
fide hits, all in the top of the eighth - there were no
errors. It was like watching Tom Emanski's Teach-
ing the Mechanics of the Major League Swing I for
45 minutes - picture-perfect line-drive shots, one
The Michigan baseball team celebrates one of its 42 victories during its tumultuou's season, which culminated with a loss in the NCAA Atlanta Regional.
after the other. Michigan lost that game 13-12, and it
could salvage just one win the entire weekend.
It didn't matter that half of the games were
decided by one run - the Wolverines' 1-7 in the
Big Ten was horrendous, especially given their
hot start. Michigan had to save face and eke out a
respectable conference"record to make the NCAA
After splitting their next series with Illinois,
the Wolverines got hot again. They trounced Ohio
State on national television and went on to sweep
After taking two from Purdue, Michigan was
10-11 in conference play, right on the cusp. If the
Wolverines couldn't squeeze their way into the
six-team Big Ten tournament, it would be tight
sneakers on an NCAA berth: Quality non-confer-
ence wins would mean nothing if they didn't take
care of Indiana and Penn State.
But they did, in convincing fashion, sweeping
Indiana and taking three of four from the Nit-
tany Lions. A 1-7 start was countered with a 7-1
finish - the boys of summer would play on.
But the respite was brief. The Wolverines
went 1-2 in the double-elimination Big Ten tour-
nament, which put a huge stain on their NCAA
resume - most publications labeled Michigan
a bubble team prior to the conference playoff.
Luckily, however, the Wolverines' hot start
made a loud enough statement, and they gained
an at-large bid - their first since 1998.
But just like the Big Ten tournament, Michigan
made an early exit, losing twice to South Caro-
lina. The breakout/disappointing/schizophrenic
season had finally come to an end.
But for those who see the glass as half-empty,
let's put things into perspective.
From Day 1 of this season, Maloney's main goal
was winhing 40 games, and Michigan did - for
the first time since 1989. Fans and players alike
might have been spoiled early on, but the 2005
season was a giant step forward for this program.
Just three years ago, the Wolverines finished 21-32,
eighth in the conference.
Get hyped my friends. Maloney is building
or, for some of you rebuilding Michigan base-
ball. When five of your players get drafted in
the first 10 rounds, you're doing something
right. When a top-50 prep star commits to your
cold weather, Midwestern school, you're doing
But before you buy a timeshare in Omaha, bear
in mind that establishing a Division I program is
a marathon, not a sprint.
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