The University of Michigan baseball team had a historic 2019 season. After going 41-18 in the regular season and finishing second in the Big Ten Conference, the Wolverines earned a bid into the NCAA Tournament. It was their 24th appearance in program history.
A couple of Wolverines were recognized for their tremendous regular season. Manager Erik Bakich was named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association National Coach of the Year and outfielder Jordan Brewer was named the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Michigan came into the tournament as the No. 3 seed in the Corvallis Regional, which was hosted by Oregon State University. They rattled off back-to-back wins against the No. 2 seeded Creighton Blue Jays and the No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats to open the tournament. They won both games by six runs.
The Wolverines loss their next game against Creighton which set up a third matchup between the two teams that would decide who won the region. After trailing 4-1 in the fourth, Michigan outscored the Blue Jays 16-4 the rest of the way to advance to the Super Regional for the first time since 2007.
In the Super Regional, the Wolverines faced the best team in the country, the UCLA Bruins, in a three-game series at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The teams split a pair of one-run contests in the first two games that set up Michigan’s second winner-take-all game of the tournament.
The Maize and Blue again rose to the challenge and stunned the baseball world by knocking off the top-ranked Bruins 4-2 and advancing to their first College World Series since 1984.
Michigan then traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to try and win their first national championship since 1962. They narrowly defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders 5-3 in the first game and Tommy Henry’s masterful complete-game shutout against the Florida State Seminoles in the second game meant the Wolverines needed just one more win to advance to the final.
Texas Tech and Michigan then faced off for the second time in a week, but this time it was nowhere near as close. The Wolverines scored at least one run in every inning except one en route to a 15-3 victory and a chance at a national championship, which would be decided by a best-of-three series between Michigan and the second-best team in the nation, the Vanderbilt Commodores.
In game one, the Wolverines used a hot start offensively and another outstanding pitching performance by Henry to win 7-4. The victory meant they needed to win just one of the next two games to take home the program’s first championship since 1962.
The Commodores, however, had other ideas. Vanderbilt starting pitcher Mason Hickman stifled the Wolverine’s bats to lead them to a 4-1 win in game two, which was followed by a dominant performance by Kumar Rocker in the third game that led the Commodores to their second national championship and ended Michigan’s season. The Wolverines’ final record was 50-22.
Despite coming up one game short, the 2019 Wolverines will still go down as one of the best teams in program history. As the first Big Ten team to reach the title game since 1966, the Maize and Blue not only captured the hearts of Michigan fans, but of baseball fans in the entire Midwest.
Tommy Henry, Jimmy Kerr, Ako Thomas, Jack Blomgren, and Jesse Franklin all made the College World Series all-tournament team. Kerr led the CWS in RBIs and home runs, while Henry and Blomgren led the event in strikeouts and hits, respectively.
Although some played their final game in the Maize and Blue, fans will still be able to follow many players from this amazing team in Major League Baseball. Pitcher Karl Kauffmann got drafted by the Colorado Rockies, while Henry was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Michigan also contributed two hitters to the majors with Jordan Brewer taken by the Houston Astros and Kerr drafted by the Detroit Tigers. Reliever Jack Weisenburger was also selected by the Oakland Athletics.
Although they are losing some key contributors to their team, Michigan will still have many solid returners and young players and recruits to be able to return to the CWS next season and win one more game.
The 2019 Michigan Wolverines captured the imaginations of fans from all across the country and put the program back on the map. The team and the run they went on will most certainly never be forgotten.