June 12, 2006
The season that rewarded those who stayed
M ichigan baseball coach Rich Malo- and top two pitchers, Michigan looked young
ney made it the team motto before and vulnerable, and at the beginning of the
the season began: season, it showed. In 2005, the
Those who stay will be cham- Wolverines entered conference play
pions. with a 16-3 record. This season:
But at the beginning of the sea- 11-7.
son, the Wolverines had the dubi- a For a time it looked bleak for
ous task of following their first those who did stay, notably for three
40-win season in 16 years with a fifth-year seniors: Paul Hammond,
roster marked with reminders of Jeff Kunkel and Drew Taylor.
those who didn't stay: Hammond had a 1-3 record with a
Chris Getz - team leader in 4.94 ERA.
batting average (.381), hits (88) H. JOSE Taylor was also 1-3, and his ERA
and steals (29). BOSCH was an astronomical 7.71 ERA.
Clayton Richard - team leader Only Kunkel was having mar-
in ERA (2.43) and second in The Bosch ginal success compared to where
saves (five). Watch he was after the same number of
Derek Feldkamp - team leader in wins games in 2005. He was second on the team in
(nine) and saves (six). on-base percentage (.462) and just sixth on the
And even though a baseball team is more team in batting average (.311). Last season, his
than three players, these weren't just three batting average was 57 points higher after the
ordinary players. same amount of games.
Without arguably its best position player With a less than stellar start in the confer-
ence (1-3), I had already determined Michigan
was out of the Big Ten race - picking the
team to finish a paltry fifth in the conference.
Those who stay will underachieve.
But the tide turned quickly - very quickly.
Soon, the Wolverines won three out of four
against Minnesota and swept Ohio State on
consecutive weekends - the two symbols of
Big Ten supremacy through the '90s and into
the new century.
That stretch would catapult Michigan to a
more than impressive 23-9 finish in the Big
Ten and its first regular-season conference title
Just one weekend later, the Wolverines
would add a conference tournament title to its
legacy - the program's first since 1999.
Michigan's 180 degree turn from a middle-
of-the-pack team to the kings of the Big Ten
hill can be attributed partly to young and inex-
perienced players maturing over time.
Still, without the leadership of players like
Hammond, Kunkel and Taylor - those who
stayed - that maturity would have taken lon-
ger to develop and a Big Ten championship
may have already been out of reach.
These three co-captains have seen the
drastic change this program has gone through
since they were freshmen, and they weren't
about to let the story of their college career
finish without a happy ending.
How did they finish the year?
Hammond finished the season 8-4 and
second on the team in ERA (2.36) while also
being voted by his teammates as the team's
Taylor wrapped up his season with a 6-
4 record and dropped his ERA to a more
respectable 4.94 ERA.
Kunkel was second on the team in batting
average (.335) and overall hits (77). He was
voted the top position player by his fellow
And those who stayed became champions.
- Bosh-an e~rarh~~at hprt-nv(@m ,l
Blue sends two more players
to the Major League ranks
By H. Jose Bosch the Geoff Zahn Award, given to the team's overall pick) but opted to stay with Michigan
Daily Sports Editor most valuable pitcher as voted by his team- forhis finalyearofeligibility. Because Kunkel
mates, while he amassed an 8-4 record. was a fifth-year senior, the Tigers could hold
Last season,seven Michigan baseball play- In Big Ten play, Hammond was 6-1 and onto his rights until midnight the day before
ers were drafted in the 2005 Major League posted a conference-best 1.32 ERA. this year's draft. Had Kunkel not signed, he
Baseball draft. But this year, just one Wolver- In his final start as a Wolverine, Hammond would have reentered the draft after midnight
ine was selected in the draft, and it was left- ended on a strong note. Against Stetson in the on June 5.
handed pitcher Paul Hammond. Atlanta regional, he threw a complete game, Kunkel was the team's MVP and defen-
The Mason, OH native was drafted on allowing just one run off of six hits and strik- sive player of the year in 2005 and 2006. He
June 7 by the Detroit Tigers in the 35th round ing out six. was also a finalist for the Coleman Company
(1,042nd overall pick) - the second day of But Hammond isn't the lone Michigan Johnny Bench Award this season, which is
the 2006 MLB draft. ballplayer to catch the eye of the Tigers. given to the nation's top catcher.
Hammond was impressive in his final sea- Teammate Jeff Kunkel signed with Detroit on He will first report to the Tigers' mini-
son with Michigan. His overall ERA (2.36) June 5, the eve of the 2006 MLB draft. camp in Lakeland, Fla. where he will even-
was not only second on the team, but also sec- The Oak Forest, Ill. native was drafted by tually be assigned to his first professional
ond in the Big Ten conference. And he won the teamlast season in the 37th round (1,110th baseball team. Jeff Kunkel was the Bli
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